J E James is warning bike shops around the country to be on high alert following the theft of a £2999.99 Whyte 146 S from its Rotherham branch.
Posing as a legitimate customer, even hanging around the store for close to an hour engaging in 'clued up discussion' about mountain bikes, the thief left a dummy set of keys in exchange for a test ride from which he has yet to return.
According to a spokesperson of J E James's Rotherham store: "A man came into the Rotherham store at 1:35 pm and quickly entered in a conversation with a staff member. They discussed bike styles and suitable options for about 40 minutes and the man seemed to know his product fairly well. They eventually they focused on the Whtye 146 S size Medium.
"He started asking about what discount we could offer for cash and haggling when the offer we suggested wasn’t good enough. The bike was set up and the staff asked for a card deposit (through a pin number), the thief then gave him the excuse that he had just finished work and didn’t have a card on him but he had brought cash. The member of staff then asked for proof if I.D and his car keys. (The staff had seen him leaning on a car outside and walking around whilst he was on his mobile so he had assumed it was his car). The thief produced his driver’s licence (the staff member didn’t take it off him) and the man gave him some car keys, which had other keys on it but these keys turned out to be a dummy set.
Unbelievably, during the test ride, the suspect did initially return to the store to request minor adjustments to the gearing.
"The staff then went out with the man to the road at the shop entrance and he rode up and down, the staff member brought the bike back in for some minor gear adjustments and the man took it out again. This time he was up and down the road and then took off through the side streets," the source told BikeBiz.
The suspect, captured on CCTV in store, is described as a white, six foot one male in his mid 30s. the suspect has brown hair and eyes and has a small ring tattoo on his right ring finger.
The Whyte stolen carries the frame number: TAFZM11CO28
The spokesperson concluded: "We need as many retailers and people to know about this as possible so the same doesn’t happen to them, and the masses can keep any eye out for this bike for us. We have a £200 reward for any information that leads to the safe return of this bike."
Former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton MBE has joined in the manhunt, tweeting J E James's theft story.