‘Shut up or we’ll kill you’: Towpath robbery victim recounts terrifying ordeal as cops appeal for information
- Credit: Archant
A gang of masked robbers surrounded a young father as he cycled beside a canal, punched him to the ground and told him: “Shut up or we’ll kill you.”
With scarves and hoods covering their faces, the cowardly attackers – all on mountain bikes – landed 10 blows to his face, said they had a knife and demanded his bank details.
Ben Goodwin’s terrifying ordeal happened yards from the Anchor and Hope pub beside the River Lea in Clapton on Tuesday night. It was the first of four robberies and robbery attempts police believe were all carried out by the same gang in the space of four days.
Ben, 31, told the Gazette today: “I was taking hits to the face from all of them. I was trying to see where the next one was coming from but I couldn’t.” Asked how many times he was hit, he said: “At least 10. They were punching me in the face – I had a black eye and cuts around my eye and inside my mouth.”
The worst part, he said, was when the robbers demanded the PIN for his bank card. He told them four times, but each time they said: “Stop lying to us. What’s your PIN?” and hit him again.
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Eventually, they made off with his phone, £30 in cash, and his bicycle lock and key, and he staggered into the Anchor and Hope to find help.
“I was really terrified,” said Ben, who had been riding home from work with a lighting and production firm nearby. “I’ve got a baby daughter and, you know, I was just totally shaken up. For a couple of days I was really struggling with it.”
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And he added: “It’s such a small game for such a big risk. They got away with £15 to £20 worth of stuff each.
“It’s just really cowardly on the one hand, riding around tooled up and picking on people by themselves, but also it’s really shocking that it’s seen to be worthwhile.”
Ben, who stands 6ft 1in, said one of the group was taller than him, while the others were about 5ft 9ins. They were in their late teens or early 20s and all on mountain bikes, one of which may have been silver.
Minutes after Ben was attacked at 10.15pm, a second man, 39, was approached by a group of men as he cycled near the pub. The attackers pushed him off his bike before punching and kicking him as he lay on the ground, and stealing a bank card, watch, silver crucifix necklace and his house keys.
The victim, who sustained a leg injury, flagged down a passer-by who called cops.
Then on Wednesday at 11.30pm, three men in their early 20s were walking near the Springfield Marina when they were approached by three men.
The victims were all assaulted and robbed for their phones and bank cards. One had a large, black handled kitchen knife held to his throat.
The fourth attack happened at 12.10am on Friday when a man, 39, was cycling near the Lea Rowing Club.
He was approached by a group of men who chased him after initially letting him pass. But they made off empty-handed.
Police believe all four attacks were carried out by the same group, described as young black men on bikes.
Det Insp Paul Ridley said: “The brutality the robbers have used is very concerning, holding a knife to the throat of one of the terrified victims and subjecting others to violent attacks.
“The robbers appear to be targeting canal path users which provides rapid access and escape routes, particularly when using a cycle.
“Please remain vigilant and if you see any individuals of concern, call police immediately. Do not attempt to challenge the robbers – there is a distinct possibility they will be armed.
“If you have been the victim at the hands of these men and have not already informed us, please come forward. I would also like to appeal to the boating community in the area to inform my investigation team if they have any information.
“I would like to reassure residents that patrols have been stepped up and officers are on alert.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Hackney police on 101 or tweet @MetCC quoting operation name Glanford. To give information anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org.