A brazen scooter gang targets BBC cameras along the route of the university boat race

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As thefts go, a gang of scooter thieves could not have been more brazen. Armed with an angle grinder they calmly halted London’s rush hour traffic and in broad daylight set about stealing BBC cameras fixed to bridges to film the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. On at least two occasions the gang roamed the route of the race targeting £100,000 television cameras attached to scaffolding and trained on the River Thames. They first struck on Putney Bridge just after 5pm on Thursday, minutes after the Oxford and Cambridge crews had rehearsed the start of the race on the river below. The gang fled empty-handed when challenged by an off duty policeman and a crew from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The thieves then drove to Barnes Bridge where they outnumbered BBC security staff and cut down a BBC camera fixed to scaffolding. The gang fled and remains at large. Rowena Chowdrey, a professional photographer who took photographs of the thieves on Putney Bridge, said she was astounded by how brazen they were. “They were very intimidating because they were dressed all in black and had black balaclavas underneath their helmets. All you could see was their eyes,” she said. “They were big guys and very confident. It was the fact that they had the audacity to do this in the sunshine and in the middle of London’s rush hour.” Ms Chowdrey had been photographing the flotilla of more than 10 boats on a practice run for today’s race when she heard the screeching engines and brakes of the motorbikes. “They did a recce first. I heard the revving of motorbikes behind me. They then disappeared. I thought they were just kids messing around. But, they were in fact checking out the camera near the lamppost. “A few minutes later they were back. There were about five guys on three scooters, two of them on pillion. I could hear the angle grinder. “A few of them had stopped traffic so they could get away easily. Meanwhile two others in the gang were literally hanging off Putney Bridge trying to get to the camera. “They were challenged by two men whom I learned later were off-duty policemen. One of them technically broke the group up and stopped them using the angle grinder.” Miss Chowdrey added: “There were about 60 or 70 witnesses. There were people looking from a bus the thieves had stopped. Others filmed them on their mobile phones from their cars. Everyone was very scared and stayed in their vehicles. We didn’t know if they had knives.” The RNLI on the river had spotted the thieves and turned it sirens and lights on to ward them off. A spokeswoman for the RNLI said: “The umpire spotted a man interfering with a BBC camera on Putney Bridge. As the inshore lifeboat was only a few hundred yards away, it made for the location. “They produced an angle grinder and attempted to cut through the scaffolding pole supporting the BBC camera. “The RNLI boat went directly underneath the activity and lit up the sirens and blue lights.” The scooter gang drove off towards Barnes B

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