What happened when we tried to buy a pair of bolt cutters at Wilko in bike theft hotspot

As part of BristolWorld’s week-long series on bike thefts, we visited a Wilko store in city centre to see how easy it was to buy a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters

A Bristol MP is calling on retail chain Wilko to review its policy on selling bolt cutters after we purchased a pair at its city centre store with no questions asked about our intended use.

The large store in Union Street is within a minute’s walk of seven reported bike thefts last year, and a five-minute walk of more than 30 according to police data revealed as part of our focus on the crime at the start of this week.

Yet we were able to buy a pair of Wilko-branded 366mm bolt cutters for £11.50 with only a check to ensure we were aged over 18 from the person on the till.

They are the same cutters - described by Wilko as a ‘useful toolbox essential’ - which were found discarded by cyclist Henry Nurser when his bike was stolen in Temple Way, just a short distance from a large store.

Courtney Sergeant purchased these bolt cutters from Wilko’s city centre store in Union Street, with no questions asked about the intended use

Entering the store on Monday afternoon (March 20), we went down the escalator and, two aisles from where the bike locks were displayed, was a small selection of cutting equipment, including the 366mmbo we picked up.

On going to the checkout, a staff member on the till asked for our ID as part of the company’s Challenge 25 Policy to check we were aged over 18. After checking our ID, we purchased the cutters for £11.50 and placed them inside a Wilko plastic bag before walking out.

MP calls for situation to be reviewed

After our purchase, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones questioned the need for Wilko to stock the tools and sell at the ‘low price’ in an area where bike thefts are rife. He has called on the company management to review the situation.

Bristol North West MP Darren Jones

He said: “These heavy duty cutters can only legitimately be used for a small number of tasks, often for workers who work in particular sectors.

“I’m not sure why Wilko should feel the need to stock such a large volume of these tools at such a low price, especially given the evidence that they are associated with crimes in our city.

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“Wilko management must review this situation and, at the very least, put in place a policy which addresses this issue as soon as possible.”

What Wilko say

The retail chain said it continually reviewed its range of products to ‘ensure we continue to serve our communities in the best way we can’.

In a statement, it said: “Throughout our 92 years we’ve always worked hard to make sure we stock products that help our broad base of customers keep their homes and gardens running smoothly. Like other DIY stockists this includes hardware products such as bolt cutters.

“We do take safety very seriously and although these products are not age restricted by law, we have chosen to age restrict voluntarily. We continually review our range and services to ensure we continue to serve our communities in the best way we can.”

A victim’s story

Henry Nurser with the bolt cutters left by thieves who stole his bike

The 60-year-old is no stranger to bike thefts, having had four stolen in the past six years - however, it was the discovery of the Wilko-branded cutters, which could have been purchased at the same store we visited in Union Street, which got to him this time.

He said: “They just shouldn’t be sold, there is no reason for it. For normal DIY you don’t need them and if you are a builder you aren’t going to buy a £11 pair, you’re going to pay £100 from a builder merchants.

“I just can’t see the market for them, or devices you can buy like battery powered angle grinders, which you can pick up for £50 to £70.”

He added: “It is a good business to be in, nicking bikes - you’ve got all the tools to do it.”

What is the law on having bolt cutters

It is not illegal to possess a pair of bolt cutters - however, if police suspect a person is carrying the item to steal a bike they could face arrest on suspicion of ‘going equipped’ under the Theft Act 1968.

Section 25 of the act specifies that for a person to be found guilty in court, it must be proved that they had an item made or adapted for use in committing a theft.

The maximum punishment, if found guilty, is three years in prison.

Tomorrow (March 24 ) we will report on a man who was reunited with his bike after suspected thieves tried selling it at a Cash Converters in Bedminster.

Do you have a story to tell about your bike being stolen? Email us at [email protected]istolworld.com