Moped gangs clash in bloody street battles
'Everyone was panicked, as they thought it was a terror attack... If you see someone with a machete, you think it’s that'
15 June, 2017 — By William McLennan
A police officer outside the Brunswick Centre after Friday’s stabbing PHOTO: Simon Lamrock
ARMED gangs on mopeds have been prowling the streets of Camden hunting their rivals, leading to at least two bloody confrontations within four days.
The two assaults – one of which reportedly involved a machete and the other a shotgun – took place in busy areas and spread fear among witnesses who believed they were in the midst of a terror attack. It follows a rise in the use of stolen mopeds to facilitate crimes, most commonly phone snatches or smash-and-grab burglaries.
A woman who rushed to the aid of a stab victim at the Brunswick Centre on Friday said that six men had arrived on three mopeds and appeared to be “chasing” after their victim before attacking him with a machete.
She said: “Everyone was panicked, as they thought it was a terror attack. If you see someone with a machete, you think it’s that.” The witness, a manager at a business in the shopping centre which was packed with customers on a warm evening, said she soon realised it was “gang-related”.
She said: “I didn’t see the guy get stabbed, but I saw him on the floor. He was shouting at [his attacker], saying: ‘Take your helmet off. I want to see your face’. You could tell it was a fight between them and was gang-related.” Armed officers and air ambulance paramedics were scrambled to the scene and police said a man in his 20s was found to have suffered a single stab wound. Detectives believe there is a second victim, who they are trying to trace.
Two men were arrested nearby on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) and have been bailed. On Tuesday last week residents in Clerkenwell Road reported hearing gunshots shortly before midnight. Mobile phone footage showed young men on foot carrying metal poles, while a pillion passenger on a moped appeared to be pointing a shotgun at them. Police confirmed they had since found “evidence of a firearm being discharged in the area”.
Natali Marcovich, who was at home with her baby daughter, said: “I heard what sounded like gunshots. It was so close to the house. Then there was the noise of people running and shouting. “It made me feel very uncomfortable. I wanted to go outside and walk the dog, but I didn’t think it was safe to go outside when something like this is happening.”
A manager at a store in Clerkenwell Road, who asked not to be named because he did not have the firm’s permission to comment publicly, said he had watched footage of the attack and believed the suspects were also responsible for phone snatches in the area. He said: “I see the same bikes here every evening. The police would see them easily if they waited here.” He added: “[The police] have to stop this. It’s been going on for years now.”
He said he regularly advised customers not to use their phones on the street at night. A Scotland Yard spokesman said they were called to reports of gunshots in Clerkenwell Road and found a 19-year-old man suffering a “non life-threatening” stab wound. Police revealed last month that 649 “powered two wheelers” – including motorbikes and mopeds – were stolen in Camden in the past 12 months and were then used to commit 1,680 other offences. They urged bike owners to lock them securely.
Camden Council’s community safety chief, Abdul Hai, said he had been informed of the two attacks, which he described as “concerning”, but said he was unaware of any connection between them. He said the council were working with police to “provide reassurance to the community that it is an isolated incident and not terror-related”.
Asked last month if a rise in youth stabbing was linked to a rise in moped crime, DCI Steve Heatley said: “It’s not that easy to say there is a definite overlap. You can’t say all the people involved in moped-enabled crime are committing violent crime on other people, because that’s not the case. Generally they are two distinct crime types.”