Inside the phone-snatching crisis as London robbery crimewave spirals

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Celebrity talent manager Chad Teixeira felt “violated” after being beaten up by phone robbers who pulled open the doors of his Uber minicab at 4am in London’s West End.

It is the third time Mr Teixeira, 27, says he has been targeted in recent weeks amid a spiralling crimewave that has seen offences rise by almost 21 per cent.

The latest Metropolitan Police figures show there were 8,972 robberies of mobiles — 24 a day — in the 12 months to September, compared with 7,423 in 2021. Only 625 devices were recovered.

City broker Henry Charlton-Weedy needed 52 stitches to his face after being attacked in Bishopsgate last month.

The 35-year-old was one of three people slashed by balaclava-clad thugs as they helped a phone robbery victim.

His author wife, Helen Carr, 33, said: “I’m proud of him for being so brave but, my goodness, I was worried. He’s much better now and he’s on the mend.”

Two men, aged 23 and 25, charged with offences including conspiracy to rob and causing grievous bodily harm with intent are due to reappear at Inner London Crown Court at a later date.

Crimestoppers say in the City of London district — where Mr Charlton-Weedy was attacked — mobile snatches have increased by 151 per cent in the past year. Criminals often use bikes and mopeds with victims approached from behind while talking or texting, the charity said in an awareness campaign.

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Offences peak on Wednesdays, with nearly two in five committed on that day.

Two-thirds happen between 6pm and 1am, when many of the 400,000 daily City workers and visitors are socialising.

Mr Teixeira, who represents some of the UK’s biggest reality TV stars, left a Soho club to take the cab back to his Mayfair home. He told the Standard: “Suddenly, the rear passenger door opened and they punched and kicked me until I gave up my iPhone.

“You feel violated. It’s scary when you don’t expect it as well.

“In busy places like Soho, you’d think people would help — but when you scream people are more likely to take their cameras out to film than assist.”

Mr Teixeira’s job as CEO of Daddy The Agency means he is often attending film premiers, club nights and photo opportunities. On two previous occasions, he was targeted by pickpockets outside restaurants near Leicester Square and Covent Garden.

A thief would first engage Mr Teixeira in conversation before an associate bumped into him and the phone vanished. He added: “For that to have happened, and then obviously the third time I got physically assaulted, I’d say it’s developing towards a crisis.”

“Park Lane, too, used to be quite a safe area. Now it’s known for pickpocketing and people riding bikes grabbing phones. It feels like there’s no police presence — even they have checked out. They didn’t seem to care.

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

“They’re so busy fighting ‘big crime’. In doing so, they’ve lost their presence in the street and people think they can do this stuff and get away with it.”

Footage from October shows a passer-by rugby-tackling a mobile phone thief and a woman applying a chokehold to stop him getting away along St Thomas Street, near Borough Market.

The hapless suspect screams: “Please, my neck, my neck. Let me sit up. I can’t breathe.” A witness remarks: “Rob people and that’s what happens.” When Met officers arrived, the suspect and members of the public had left the scene. There have been no arrests.

Earlier this month, Graveney School in Tooting issued anti-mugging manuals to pupils after at least 10 students were targeted for mobiles.

Separately, a man robbed of his bike and mobile by two balaclava-clad men with a “foot-long serrated knife” on the C10 cycle route in Bermondsey expressed frustration at the lack of police action.

Locals are reportedly so concerned about safety they graffitied a warning on tarmac telling cyclists, “Be aware, robbery and theft on this route” near The Den, Millwall FC’s stadium.

The 53-year-old cyclist said: “I am particularly annoyed at finding this is a hotspot. There does not seem to be any meaningful warning signs or police prevention.”

Abdurahman Haramein (Met Police)
Abdurahman Haramein (Met Police)

The following day, a 40-year-old man was punched, kicked in the face and had his mobile phone stolen by three suspects wearing balaclavas in Dagmar Road, Camberwell, south London. Last month, detectives issued CCTV footage of a suspect wanted after a man in his 50s was struck over the head and robbed of mobiles and a Tag Heuer watch in Bayonne Park, Fulham.

Scotland Yard identifies robbery as the biggest contributor to youth violence in London, with 24 per cent of crimes involving knives.

In August, members of a gang who carried out robberies across Camden and Islington were sentenced. Abdurahman Haramein, Omar Abdelqadir Hassan, both 19, Adbirashid Mahamed, 18, and a 17-year-old boy pleaded guilty to 19 offences. Haramein received four years’ detention; Hassan got two years in custody suspended for two years and 240 hours of unpaid work; Mahamed and the juvenile were sentenced to rehabilitation orders.

Detective Sergeant James Earle, of the Central North Command Unit, said at the time: “We worked forensically to identify the suspects before gathering witness accounts, CCTV and mobile phone data which amounted to overwhelming evidence, in light of which the defendants had no option but to plead guilty.”

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Detective Sergeant Alan Biggs, who led another Met investigation against a Hampstead gang, advised: “We urge anyone who is a victim of robbery to report it to police quickly — the first few hours in any investigation are key for us.”

When a mobile phone is stolen, perpetrators will look to sell the device quickly for cash — often to buy drugs — before it can be traced. Skilled thieves can reprogramme a phone and swap its SIM card in minutes.

Resellers will gladly pay hundreds of pounds for the latest iPhone 13 or 14s.

Previously, gangs have been caught sending handsets overseas. They also run up huge international call bills before the network provider is alerted.

Others will seek to crack the phone’s security in order to steal personal data and commit fraud. There is a huge black market for such information, greater than the value of the handset.

Apple IDs, Amazon and financial accounts can be hacked to make large purchases. More sinister offenders will seek to use photos, texts or emails to blackmail the original owner.