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Home » Islington And Barnet Mobile Phone Thieves Jailed

Islington And Barnet Mobile Phone Thieves Jailed

Two men who used a moped to carry out 72 mobile phone snatches in just six weeks have been jailed for a combined nine years.

Randy Kavungu, 21, of Union Square, Islington and Darius James, 22, of Old Farm Road, Barnet pleaded guilty on January 3 to offences including robbery and threatening with an offensive weapon.

Both were sentenced to four-and-a-half years each at Hendon Magistrates’ Court.

Between May 24 and June 30 2021 officers became aware of a spate of moped-enabled robberies and phone snatch thefts committed primarily in central and north London boroughs.

The suspects, a rider and a pillion passenger, typically struck between 7am and 9am and targeted lone morning commuters using their phones while walking or standing on pavements.

They would then ride the moped towards them from behind at speed, with the passenger grabbing the phone while the driver rode off, Scotland Yard said.

On one occasion, a victim had coffee thrown in their face while another had their finger broken during the robbery.

The thugs also admitted to threatening a witness with a hammer after one incident.

Det Insp Alan Biggs, from the Met’s Operation Venice, said: “Kavungu and James set out with a pre-agreed plan to steal the phones of as many people as they could, using a moped to target lone victims in open spaces.

“They had no regard for the harm they could have caused by their dangerous driving and it is only by extreme fortune that no-one was more seriously injured.

“We were determined to catch these two suspects who were causing so much harm within our city. Our investigation involved examining hundreds of hours of CCTV as well as complex mobile phone analysis and we are pleased this means they will now be off our streets and unable to commit further offences for a long time.”

The Met’s investigation revealed that the same moped – a black Beverly ST350 – was used in all the robberies.

The thieves would cover the number plate before carrying out the thefts meaning there was no simple way to link the bike and the suspects.

Officers used police patrols, CCTV, witness testimony and other communications data to build a profile of the two offenders.

On July 14 2021, warrants were executed at the home addresses of Kavungu and James who were arrested and taken into custody.

At Kavungu’s address, officers found a blue Nike jacket and a black Spada helmet, the same as those seen worn in CCTV of the incidents.

A black puffer jacket, also worn by one of the suspects on various days, was found at James’ address.

Det Chf Supt Lee Hill, head of the violent crime taskforce, said:“Tackling violent crime in all its forms is our top priority and we are targeting robbers who fuel violent crime in London. We know every robbery has an impact on the victim and increases fear and concern within our communities.”

He said the Operation Venice team was set up in direct response to a spike in moped-enabled robberies and have been busy ever since.

“The team have a unique insight into offending patterns and the way these gangs operate which assists our uniformed officers conducting patrols in hotspot locations. This means they can be in the right place at the right time more often to prevent further offences and hopefully catch those intent on committing crime in the act.”

In total Kavungu pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery, one attempted robbery, one count of conspiracy to steal and one count of threatening with an offensive weapon in a public place (hammer).

James pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal, two counts of robbery and also threatening with an offensive weapon in a public place (hammer).

If you see a robbery taking place or have just been robbed, call 999 immediately, police said, preferably reporting it within 24 hours.

People are advised to stay aware of their surroundings and pay attention to who is around them, keep valuables such as mobile phones, watches and cash out of sight, and plan their route home.