Two arrests after action to tackle railway path crime

January 26 2021

POLICE have thanked residents for their support in tackling a spate of crime on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path.

James Cleeton of transport charity Sustrans with his wife Pippa and son Jasper on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path as cyclists rode the path in a show of solidarity on December 5

The latest attack was at about 5.30pm on Monday December 7, when officers received a report that a 21-year-old lone female had been stabbed while out running near Brook Road, Kingswood.

An appeal for information following the incident resulted in a number of witness reports which led to the arrest of a 14-year-old on suspicion of wounding with intent

Police said the suspect had been released under investigation and enquiries were ongoing.

A spokesman said: “We’d like to thank everyone who got in touch with information or shared our appeal. Anyone with further information that could assist police with their investigation should call 101 quoting crime reference number 5220275007.”

A few days earlier, police had stepped up patrols on the path in response to public concerns over incidences of anti-social behaviour, sexual assault, theft and assault. They have been working with partners including transport charity Sustrans and local councils and have pledged to improve information sharing between Bristol East and South Gloucestershire neighbourhood policing teams.

On December 1, officers arrested a 13-year-old boy on suspicion of sexual assault. The suspect has been released on bail and enquiries are ongoing.

Neighbourhood Inspector Clive Summerill said: “This successful arrest, which was a joint effort on the part of our neighbourhood and Operation Remedy officers, is a positive step forward in our commitment to tackling the people causing harm within our communities and ensuring the cycle path - an important part of the city's green transport infrastructure and enjoyed by families throughout the year - is a safe and pleasant place to be.

“The local neighbourhood team continues to patrol the pathway and we’d encourage anyone who spots a crime in progress, or has concerns about groups of young people being intimidating, anti-social or blocking the path to call 101 as soon as possible, or 999 if they fear a crime is being committed.”

Incidents reported to police and shared on residents’ and cyclists’ Facebook groups in recent weeks include sexual assaults and harassment, robberies, threats and the placing of tree branches and nails on the path.

Most of the reported incidents have been happening in the early evening and many have been centred on two areas – the old Mangotsfield station, where the path divides between Emersons Green, Warmley and Staple Hill, and the stretch near Morrisons in Fishponds.

They include:

• A man robbed of an electric scooter at knifepoint on November 19 near Mangotsfield station.

• Branches thrown on to the path near Mangotsfield station on November 12 and 16 as cyclists approached. In the second incident a cyclist was threatened with rape when she shouted at a teenage boy hiding in bushes nearby.

• Roof felt nails scattered on the path between Mangotsfield and Warmley stations on Nov 15.

• A teenage boy robbed of his bike after being pushed off near Morrisons in Fishponds on November 25

• A woman chased and sexually assaulted while riding her bike past Morrisons on Nov 25 & 26.

• A cyclist knocked off his bike, suffering a fractured shoulder and broken ribs, by the Whitehall Primary School crossing on December 1.

Ward councillor Ian Boulton said that while there had been problems with crime and anti-social behaviour on the path before, the recent level of anecdotal reports from the Staple Hill and Mangotsfield section was “unprecedented”.

But he said the number of reports to police did not match levels reported on social media and added: “It is vital that everyone with any information, either as a victim or a witness, calls the police in order to help them put the jigsaw pieces together.This will help them to see the whole picture and bring this small group of young men, who are causing so much upset and distress and only seem to be getting bolder in their behaviour, to justice.”

People are being urged to report all incidents they see on 101, or to call 999 if a crime is in progress.

Members of the Bristol Cyclists and Bristol & Bath Railway Path – OnePath Facebook groups have been sharing information about incidents and organising ways for people to team up and ride the path together for safety.

Sustrans helps care for the path.The charity’s South area director James Cleeton organised a socially-distanced ride on Saturday for path users to show solidarity. 

He said the path was “very busy” with people on bikes and on foot, with support from Easton ward councillor Afzal Shah and music from a Fishponds residents group.