Cyclist forced to spend £6,000 on drones, private investigators and drive to POLAND to get stolen bikes back after police said there wasn’t enough evidence – despite him giving them the crooks’ NAMES
- Damian Groves , 34, spent £6,000 retrieving four stolen pro bikes worth £36k
- He claims he was forced to get them himself as Staffordshire Police failed to act
An elite cyclist turned detective spent nearly £6,000 tracking down thieves who stole four of his bikes – before driving 1,200 miles to Poland to get them back.
Damian Groves , 34, was horrified when burglars made off with four professional cycles valued at £36,000 from his parents’ garage in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, on June 25.
Determined to get justice, Mr Groves hired a private investigator and flew a drone over an address where he was told the bikes were.
The plasterer complained Staffordshire Police failed to act to retrieve the stolen goods, making it ‘equally annoying’.
He said: ‘I gave the police some names that had been passed to me and they said “we know of them but just giving us their names isn’t enough”.
‘At that point I knew I was going to have to go deeper myself.
‘I thought at this point “the police are going to be fairly useless here.”‘
Mr Groves is well-known in cycling circles as is his partner Emily Smith, 33, a former police officer turned military athlete who rides for the British Army Enduro Team.
Their nightmare began when four bikes from US brand Niner – which act as a sponsor for Mr Groves – were stolen overnight for his parents’ garage.
Because of their sporting high profile, Mr Groves said he initially thought he and his partner may have been the victims of a professional steal-to-order racket.
But after asking locals, he was given the names of the alleged perpetrators – who he says were opportunist thieves who simply broke into the garage at random.
Mr Groves handed the names to Staffordshire Police, but claims officers took no action.
The couple posted about the thefts on Instagram and amassed hundreds of thousands of views, before Mr Groves was contacted by a person on the site who claimed to have all four bikes.
They blackmailed him, asking for £300 in cash to return one of them.
Desperate to get his gear back, Mr Groves left the money in an alleyway, but his bike wasn’t returned.
The crook then sent a taxi to his home with his daughter in asking for more money – but Mr Groves ignored them.
He said he felt certain the person had the bikes because of the level of detail they gave him about them.
After telling the police the latest update, he says officers told him they would approach Instagram owner Meta for the user’s details – but did not hear back.
Mr Groves added: ‘At this point I decided that we either had to let it go or do something about it. I didn’t want to be the person who just complained.
‘Two weeks went by and I decided to get a private investigator (PI).’
The sleuth received a major tip-off when a Hungarian cycling enthusiast got in touch to say he was certain he had seen the bikes posted on a Polish sales site.
Mr Groves confirmed they were his bikes and the private investigator tracked the poster down to an address in Leicester.
He said: ‘We put a drone in the air to match the background of the ad to his garden in Leicester.
‘It appeared the guy lives in Leicester but was selling them in Poland. He’s a self-employed trucker and he takes the stuff over there.’
Mr Groves’ contacted his investigating officer, but says there was toing and froing between Staffordshire Police and neighbouring Leicestershire Police about authorising a search warrant.
‘I was doing somersaults at this point,’ he said. ‘My PI had made a dummy account and was trying to arrange a meet to get the bikes.
‘The person was saying they’d been sold and one by one the ads were disappearing.
‘From my point of view all this procrastination from the police was just making my bikes get further and further away.’
Mr Groves says he had further frustrating communication with Leicestershire Police about the warrant before finally taking action into his own hands.
He wrote to the seller in Leicester. The man immediately replied with an apology, saying the bikes were in Poland but he could have them back.
It is not known whether or not the seller knew they were stolen.
Unwilling to spend more money on outside help, Mr Groves left for Warsaw on August 18 and after a 1,200-mile round trip returned with all four of his stolen bikes 48 hours later.
‘By midnight I found myself back at my house looking at my four bikes and I couldn’t believe it was all over. I’d got my bikes back without any real help from the police at all.’
He estimated the ordeal cost him around £6,000 – with £2,500 spent on the private investigator, £300 to the blackmailer, £1,700 to operatives who collected his bikes in Warsaw and £1,200 driving there and back to collect them.
Reflecting on the case, he said: ‘The police on the ground want to do their job but there is too much red tape for them.
‘When it first started because the bikes were worth almost £40,000 I was told CID might have picked it up.
‘I don’t want this to be a witchhunt on the police; I am pro police, but the system in place needs addressing so the police can actually just do their jobs.
‘It’s not the eyes on the ground that are the problem. Every officer I spoke to was interested and it seemed as though they wanted to help, but they almost had to ask for permission to breathe, let alone knock on a door.’
A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police said: ‘We were first called to an address in Newcastle-under-Lyme on Sunday June 25 following reports of theft.
‘The victim, a man in his 30s, reported that four high-value mountain bikes had been stolen from the address.
‘We began investigating and were following several lines of inquiry.
‘Then, on 17 August, we were notified that the stolen bikes had been returned to the owner.
‘We are sorry to hear our actions to date have not met the expectations of the victim; however, we have conducted a number of enquiries and the investigation remains ongoing.
‘We are still keen to speak to anyone with any information which may be able to help us with our investigation.’