Bike Thieves & Gumtree Sellers

Not-so-hot wheels.

Around 400,000 bikes are stolen every year in the UK, which works out at roughly one bike every 90 seconds…

“Not many people consider ‘professional bike thief’ as a proper criminal occupation, but for 3 years or so I made a pretty decent living out of it…that is, until I was caught.”

Darryl Metcalfe grew up in what could generously be described as a ‘grim northern town‘, a long forgotten corner of England that had seemingly been forgotten by the rest of the world and left to fester in its own retrograde microcosm. A blanket of concrete and cut-price High Street stores with a few faded pubs was all this town had to offer its occupants.

The prospect of ‘getting out’ and escaping the insufferable gloom of this bleak urban existence was less a dream and more of a one-in-a-million chance, a probability that was only rivalled by those of the jackpots on the back of scratchcards that were plastered to the cracked pavements along with limited edition chewing gum flavours attempting to curry favour for England’s Euro ’96 campaign.

“I hated that place. My school was awful, the teachers hated me and I hated them. I knew I wasn’t smart, but they’d tagged me as ‘the wrong sort’ from day one. I never had a chance of getting an education – not the traditional kind that is…’

Darryl lived in 2-bed flat with his Mother. Like many hard-working Mums of the time she didn’t have much time to spend with her son, having to work two jobs throughout the week in order to get enough money together feed to herself and her boy. She felt that as long as she was getting her boy to school and putting food on the table she was doing just fine, to his credit Darryl always tried his best to hide his nefarious actions from his Mum, even when ‘hiding’ meant lying.

“It was a lad in detention who told me about it first. He told me about how he was rolling in money, showed me a wad of cash and told me how easy it was to get it. A good kid would have seen that money and thought better, but by that point in time I’d already given up on being a kid, I wanted money, I wanted a car and I wanted to get out of my town and this looked like the best option to me.”

From 2007-2010 Daryll became the most industrious bike thief in his town. He started small, breaking into sheds with a crowbar at night to take bikes from family homes. He’d then take apart the bikes, respray them and sell them on to online sellers. By randomising his strategy, Darryl was able to leave very little trace of his identity; he used an anonymous burner to contact the bike sellers and soon started ‘upping his game’ – this is when he got into a little hot water.

“The bike that did for me was labelled with a UV marker, registered with the National Bicycle Database. The seller I sold the bike to reported it as stolen and gave the police a description that matched CCTV images of me entering the area. It was only a matter of time before I was caught. After doing my time I was lucky enough to get work in a bike shop, maintaining and fitting out bikes which I’m in charge of legally verifying…it’s a strange old world!”