Armed bike robbery: what happened?

The words say a lot

Professional bike rider Alexandar Richardson announced on Instagram this week that he’d been the victim of a violent bike robbery.

Here is his quote, broken down into paragraphs to make it easier to read:

Pretty shocking experience today in Richmond park. Was finishing my training around 3pm when two motor bikes with 4 men and balaclavas started following me.

I knew exactly they wanted to take my bike and started to think what the best thing I could do was.

I turned around at east sheen roundabout and started riding full speed to the cafe about 500 metres away. They simply rode one of the motor bikes into me at 60kph.

I came off the bike and the first motor bike lost control. I held onto my bike however the second motor bike then dragged me and the bike along the floor for another 100 metres.

After this they pulled out a 15 inch machete 🔪 at which point I thought better and let the bike go.

I’m pretty cut up and bruised with a swollen hip but tomorrow is another day. Please be careful in the area and note this is becoming a common occurrence in parts of london. The police have taken their notes down as armed robbery and hopefully the criminals are found.

Please raise awareness. At least I got most of the ride in even if no file to show for it! Once again the wife to the rescue to pick me up

Let’s break it down

When we break down a statement to see what it’s really saying we’re looking for clusters of indicators. If someone shows the odd discrepancy in their words, it’s not necessarily an indicator of deception but the more discrepancies we spot then the more questions it raises about what is being said.

We should also look at the picture painted in our mind by the words. Is it a bright and vivid picture? Are there parts missing which make it difficult to create the movie in our mind?

With this statement, we should also bear in mind it was posted on social media where people tend to use a bit of shorthand.

Here, the story is always told in the past tense which is what you’d expect when someone is truthfully recalling past events. There are no additional words which have been added to increase the severity of the incident which is common when someone is trying to hard to convince us that an event has really happened.

He uses the word “pretty” twice as emphasis: “pretty shocking” and “I’m pretty cut up”. Pretty is a mild adverb. It means moderately high; it’s often used to downplay the significance of something which would otherwise be considered quite large.

All in numbers

Although the words are very short on adjectives being used to convey an amount of severity (which would be a red flag of deception) Alexandar uses numbers throughout to increase the vividness of his story

⁃            Two motorbikes

⁃            Four men

⁃            Cafe 500 metres away

⁃            Impact at 60 kph

⁃            Dragged 100 metres

⁃            15-inch machete

Only one of these numbers is an estimate, the cafe was “about” 500 metres away. The others are stated as exact. Two bikes and four men are easy to count but the speed of the impact, the distance he was dragged, and the length of the blade must all be estimates too, however he is very specific about them.

There are two pieces of unusual wording which stand out for me. “I knew exactly they wanted to take my bike”. “Exactly” is misplaced here.

The police have taken their notes down as armed robbery” is a very strange way of stating something, in fact it’s an odd thing to state at all. The story above has demonstrated it was an armed robbery, is this line in there to convince us more so? If so, why?

It’s possible that these odd ways of saying something are personal idiosyncrasies but having looked through some interviews and other social media posts by the rider I found him to be very straightforward with his words.

Something missing

There are two big things missing in this statement: feelings and theft.

Apart from the very first line “Pretty shocking experience” there are no feelings anywhere. This scenario would have raised a lot of very strong feelings. Fear, panic, pain, relief, anger, and concern are all feelings that I would expect to experience if this was to happen to me. Your set of feelings may be different, but it would take a very unusual person to experience all of what happened and not feel anything. And yet, apart from saying it was “pretty shocking” he doesn’t express any feelings.

In other social media posts Alexandar is very free with his feelings. Even when he is describing a race, he will mention his feelings about the result or his competitors. This post is a departure from that style.

The missing theft. If you read this post from the rider, you’ll come away with the impression that his bike was stolen. However, at no point does he state his bike was stolen. He says he let the bike go but doesn’t say what happened after that. On first read, you presume that the bike was taken but he never says so. If someone doesn’t say it outright it’s a good choice to not assume it happened.

I’ve known of scores of bike riders who have their bikes stolen and nearly all the time they make an appeal to get it back and will share descriptions and pictures of the stolen bike to increase the chances of its return.

That Alexandar doesn’t do this does not definitively mean it wasn’t stolen but it’s interesting to note his hopes for the future are for the criminals to be caught, not for the bike to be returned.

Throughout, Alexandar is consistent with his own pronouns. He always uses “me” “I” and “my” which is a good indicator of honesty. There is never a slip into more distant pronouns for himself.

When referring to the gang Alexandar always refers to them in the plural. Not once does he refer to an act carried out by one person. The actions are always taken by “they” or even objects “the second motorbike dragged me”.

Some of this is valid, the gang were acting together as one overall, but one part concerns me.

The final ref flag I’ll point out is inside the line “After this they pulled out a 15 inch machete”. I’d expect to hear this from a singular point of view given that one of the gang would have pulled out the blade. “One of them pulled out...”, “the ringleader pulled out…”, “the shortest one pulled out…” would be the kind of words expected here.

If we took the words literally, the gang all did the same things at the same time. They all look the same in balaclavas, there is not one individual action.

Conclusion.

There is enough there to say that something happened. The consistency in certain aspects show that Alexandar is personally recalling events.

However, there is also embellishment to the story and big things missing. Those elements, for me, mean further questions would need to be asked to discover the truth about this incident.

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