How bike bandit was trapped in Leeds

A serial bike thief who stole almost £4,000 worth of expensive cycles from university campuses in Leeds was eventually nabbed by a pair of police 'trap' bikes.

Lee Walsh, 35, from East End Park, was even filmed on CCTV slicing through the chains with bolt cutters and making off with the expensive bicycles.

The brazen thief would later take the stolen bikes to an address in Meanwood, strip them down, change their identities and sell them on for cash.

However he was caught when he targeted two bikes that had been planted by police in a cycle theft hotspot.

At Leeds Magistrates' Court this week, Walsh, a jobless builder and plasterer, admitted taking two police trap bikes, worth 1,000, one in November and one earlier this month.

He also admitted six similar offences – involving bikes worth 2,600 – which he asked to be taken into consideration.

Walsh – who claimed he had been forced into turning to crime after losing his job, his home and his relationship – was sentenced to 150 hours community service and a 12 month community order for each of the offences, to run concurrently.

He must also pay 600 in compensation, 100 to each of the bike owners he stole from.

The court was told that during one theft of a 700 BMX bike from Leeds Met, he was caught on CCTV taking a large pair of bolt cutters from his jacket pocket, cutting the chain and putting the cutter back in his pocket.

Police caught up with him as he rode the bike away. He claimed he had found the bike in the woods and was attempting to trace the owner.

Walsh told the court he had fallen into desperate times when he lost his job, his relationship broke down and he found himself suddenly homeless and penniless.

He said he had been working since he was 16 and had "gone 35 years without breaking the law" up to now.

The capture bikes – described by West Yorkshire Police as a "secret weapon" – are regularly deployed at bicycle theft hot-spots, primarily university areas.

Campuses are hardest hit by bike crime – more than a quarter of the 530 bicycles stolen in North West Leeds in the past year were from a university.

The capture bike scheme has been paid for by the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University, whose security teams work with the

police using their own CCTV systems.

After Walsh's sentencing, Detective Inspector Neil Thompson, of North West Leeds Division, said: "Walsh's conviction...illustrate(s] just how valuable the capture bikes are proving in helping us to target thieves who think the university campuses will be an easy target for them.

"We hope this latest success will send out a clear deterrent message to thieves that the risk of getting caught is higher than ever. It should also serve as a warning to people to make sure their bikes are properly secured with high quality locks whenever they leave them."

The trap bikes are just one of various police 'capture' schemes operating in the city.

A 'capture house' initiative has also seen a recent new arrest and 'capture cars' also operate across north-west Leeds to nab car thieves.

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