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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
'Gang on train robbed me'
Silhouette of man
The 25-year-old was robbed on a train in the early evening
As a report by the British Transport Police reveals rising crime on the railways, a 25-year-old from South London relives his mugging ordeal.

Having been living and working in China for a year, I had come home to London for a four-week visit when I was robbed on a Charing Cross-bound train by four youths who deprived me of my bank cards and 14 in cash.

I had been back in the country for only a week when the mugging occurred in February. Welcome home, I thought, cynically.

It was early evening when I got on at the station behind my house. Post-rush hour, the train was typically empty.

About three stations after getting on, I noticed a youth sit opposite me.

Soon, he was joined by three companions who sat around me.

At this point, I grew alarmed. He began to ask inane questions such as 'Where are you from?' - trademark mugging tactics that are meant to distract the victim, but in fact are a dead giveaway of an intent to rob.

Weapon

The guy who had been talking to me now moved next to me and, warning me to be quiet, proceeded to rummage through my pockets.

His companion opposite me motioned as if he had a weapon hidden inside his jacket and made threatening gestures.

They took my cash and looked through my wallet. I also had an old mobile phone which after a quick look they declared was not good enough to rob.

Having found my debit card, they asked me the PIN number and threatened to march me to a cash machine.

I didn't fancy lying to them in case they took me to test the PIN. And I knew I would probably be refunded any money by my bank's insurance scheme. So I told them the truth and they got off the train.

The key weapon in a mugging is fear and that lingers on long after the event
25-year-old mugging victim

Initially shaken, I made sure that they had all left the train before cancelling my bank cards.

Then after getting off the train I called British Transport Police to report the crime and promised to give a statement.

I felt quite calm and matter-of-fact about what had happened. Luckily, I had not been physically assaulted.

In the following days I replayed the incident over and over in my head. What should I have done differently?

Giving them my PIN number was the thing I agonised most about. I found out they had made a successful withdrawal of 300 from my bank account.

The bank staff were uncertain about me being refunded because I had given them my PIN. The financial loss was my biggest worry.

Psychological impact

However, there was still the psychological impact. The key weapon in a mugging is fear and that lingers on long after the event. I was now scared to board my local train at certain hours when it was not crowded.

A familiar environment had become contaminated by crime.

This was compounded by the fact that I had only been back in the country briefly after a year in China, during which I had never once felt physically threatened or had any of my property stolen.

Crime certainly exists in China but nowhere near the scale of London. I was unused to the aggression and caution required in certain parts of London.

Subsequently, I learned after a week that the bank would refund my stolen money as I originally presumed they would. This was a big relief.

A few months later, having returned to China, I was informed that the police had caught three of the robbery suspects, who, faced with overwhelming evidence, confessed guilty to a series of crimes. They were sentenced to four years in prison.

Not having to face the robbers in trial and relive the mugging again was another massive relief for me. This provided a sense of closure in my mind.

The event was well and truly behind me; justice had been done. I had already moved on - now I could just forget about the whole thing.



SEE ALSO:
Violent attacks on Tube increase
24 Aug 04  |  London
Rail attack 'yob' sentenced
11 May 04  |  North East Wales


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