Brazen watch robberies fuel shock rise in violent thefts in London

Disturbing mobile phone footage shows type of violent attacks being carried out on the streets of London - tap above to watch video report by Helen Keenan

A sharp rise in violent crime on London's streets is being fuelled by a spate of brazen watch robberies with some involving machetes bought online.

Figures obtained exclusively by ITV News London showed thefts soared 65 per cent in the capital over the past year.

Between January and July 2021 there were 377 reported watch thefts, according to the Met Police compared to 621 in the same period during 2022.

Chelsea, Belgravia and the West End were the watch crime hotspots making up over a third of robbery cases with some watches seemingly stolen to order.

Police said a number of suspects arrested appeared to have so-called 'shopping lists' detailing different brands of watches.

'Looking over your shoulder'

James Backhouse was left battered and bruised after being attacked in Marylebone for his watch.

He was punched in the head after his attackers asked for the time and considered fighting back but was worried they might be armed.

"For the next week you're constantly looking over your shoulder," James told ITV News London.

"When you're walking home in the dark you either walk quickly or make sure you are crossing the road because you don't know if someone is going to hit you again.

"I won't wear a watch again. It's only when I searched online that I realised it was such a big crime in London," he added.

In a separate attack, Conservative councillor Andrew Dinsmore was targeted for his watch by robbers armed with machetes.

Armed moped rider carries out a terrifying daytime attack Credit: Met Police

He said: "Since I appeared on ITV News I've had a number of people approach me with their own difficulties.

"One young man was held up after football practice where he was pinned down and a knife put in his face.

"A few streets away from me in Fulham at 6pm a young man was walking home they attacked him with a machete, they split his head open and he needed twenty stitches.

"In that example they hit him first and got the watch after."

Mr Dinsmore started a petition to have machetes banned which has so far clocked up over 120,000 signatures.

He found a simple search for the weapon online also brought up suggested items including balaclavas.

"The policies do work," Andrew Dinsmore explained.

"For example after the Dunblane tragedy in Scotland when we banned the sale of firearms and there has not been a major firearms incident since.

"There is a fundamental difference between having to go on the black market and source a machete than getting it delivered to your house tomorrow, complete with balaclava," he added.

MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands, is taking his calls for a ban to the new Home Secretary Grant Shapps.

"It is time for tough action on machetes in the same way that Samurai swords and other big knives have been banned we should do the sane for machetes," Mr Hands said.

"There is a use for machetes in agriculture but I'm sure there is a way we can allow them to be used in agriculture while simultaneously being sold online," he explained.

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