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Shocking: Two concert pianists attacked in London street in broad daylight

This should have been a good weekend for Alexandra Dariescu, an award-winning young Rumanian pianist.

She was planning to spend a day studying and playing with Imogen Cooper, who is mentoring her under the Royal Philharmonic Society scheme set up in memory of the great tenor Philip Langridge.

Alexandra got off the tube at Kilburn Park station and set off towards Imogen’s home with a handbag full of Chopin scores. She never arrived.

A man got out of a car, walked up to her, punched her in the face and took her mobile phone. He then drove off in the car with two others.

The police arrived and took details. They told her that such incidents happen twice a day on average in the area. Her handbag was untouched. The thieves are only looking for iphones to sell abroad.

The police dropped Alexandra off at A&E where she waited four hours to be seen among a mob of weekend drunks. Worryingly, ‘I noticed several cases of alcohol related, clearly self-inflicted incidents where the patients, handcuffed to police, seemed to receives priority treatment which I assume is to do with the fact that the officials could go about filing their reports quicker. Noticing this didn’t make the wait any easier and unable to call anyone without the details on my phone I had to sit it out alone. At least there is no shortage of tissues in hospital. ‘

Alexandra is feeling much better today but with a massive headache and shoulder pain which stem from the initial punch of the attack. Musicians and friends have rallied round and she will be getting a new phone pretty soon, but we should all be shocked by the casual, routine nature of the attack in broad daylight in North London.

This is London, six weeks before the Olympic Games. There will be worse incidents unless the authorities do something about it.

MESSAGE TO BORIS JOHNSON: Get more cops on the streets. Now.

UPDATE: A second pianist was mugged in the same area a few weeks before. James Rhodes has been in touch to say: ‘Sunday afternoon 3pm, sunny day and a guy smacks me one and grabs my phone. We wrestled a bit, I chased him but he got away with it. That’s London alas… It was a day before a run of 3 concerts on 3 consecutive days (not ideal) and that I was an idiot for trying to fight back’.

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  1. Scott Rose says:

    The kind of attack is occurring in patterns, ergo, there must be an immediate, intense effort to apprehend perpetrators, to give them swift, fair trials, and then to impose the strictest allowable deterrent penalties. Officials should be furnishing broadcasters and newspaper publishers with statements about the strongest existing sentences for people convicted of such crimes, and state that those found guilty will be given those strict sentences.

  2. Question: did she come out of the tube and take out her iPhone? My bet is yes.

    • And what would be wrong with that? She may have needed the map to find her way.

      • Nothing ‘wrong’ with it. But very inadvisable, it has been warned against in various posters across the underground as a common occurrence and is in all the Met police advice and many local councils.

      • A paper map is much safer – I think they still make them!

        I have a phone but never use it as a map & would never walk around – in much of London – or Birmingham where I live, talking on a phone unless there were plenty of people around me.

        These thugs pick on people who are alone & I am afraid to say that in these circumstances it is very silly to talk on a phone.

        • @ Peter & Tim; your comments are shocking and absolutely tasteless. There’s a girl who has been assaulted by (3!!) men and you are making it sound as if she is responsible for it? You should be ashamed! What you still don’t seem to realise is that it wasn’t her using her phone that caused the attack but rather 3 bastards who had nothing better to do then to look out for the next victim to mug. It could have also been her bag or God forbid a lot worse still …..
          I bet smarty-pants like yourselves are the first ones to look away when something like this happens in the streets.

          • I was not blaming this poor lady for the attack by these cretins.

            All I was saying that the only way to avoid, as much as humanly possible, these terrible things happening is to be extra vigilant if you are walking on your own in an area you are not used to.

            I am 63 & used to work in London & when I visit London or even in my home city of Birmingham, I think ‘Is it safe for me to do what I am thinking of doing’.

            I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people waving expensive phones or cameras around on the underground. They are regretably in this day & age only asking fro trouble. They shouldn’t have to but that’s what happens nowadays.

            I would love to have a go even at 63 & with a bad leg!! But there are limits for anyone.

          • John Hames says:

            But John, Peter & Tim weren’t responsible for it either! Why attack them? They weren’t saying it was the girl’s fault, simply that one has to be careful and not take risks in areas known to be dodgy. If this is a discussion about Police priorities, that’s another matter. Obviously they should at least be trying to get on top of this verminous stuff.

          • Actually I don’t look away John. But thank you for your ill tempered rant, which adds nothing to the debate. I stand by my original comment, which to be clear attributes no blame whatsoever, but is an observation on behaviour in London and other big cities.

            If you really want to rant, consider how the story made it to Slipped Disc. Publicity machine? With a glamorous photo? At least one word is right in the story – ‘routine’. Alas these attacks are routine, hence the advice not to wave your phone around.

          • @ Peter – I rather take issue with your hardly disguised suggestion of a publicity machine.
            Glamourous photos of most artists are available on their websites, and Alexandra is no exception – it’s easy enough for our genial host to find that. The image above graces her homepage, in addition to being available in her gallery.

  3. It is shocking- and not only because she is a pianist. London is a good deal more dangerous than the travel brochrues would have us believe. There should be a much bigger effort to inform the public about these cell phone thieves. As for the treatment at the A&E: I once had to go to the Roosevelt Hospital in New York after cutting my lefg on a piece of plate glass. When the other clients saw the blood coming from the wound, they all stood aside and let me go first. But these weren’t drunks handcuffed to police.

  4. Stuart Green says:

    Thank god we don’t live in UK anymore. The trouble is these baxxxxxx get away with it thanks to all the do gooders putting a stop to real deterrents.

  5. This is exactly why I took my woman out of London! And we lived in Tower Hamlets.

  6. Musiker says:

    “This is exactly why I took my woman out of London! And we lived in Tower Hamlets.”
    I can’t believe I’m reading sentences like that on this blog.

  7. Paul Mann says:

    I’m a UK citizen now living in Romania, the country Ms Dariescu comes from, and where I can “wave my phone around” without fear of being punched in the face for it. (I would also receive better treatment in A&E.) The UK needs to do something about its complacency, as well as its apparent inability to deter this kind of thing. With or without the Olympics.

  8. Antonia Azoitei says:

    About as many people seem to have iPhones these days as handbags and I don’t think we could argue people should hide their bags up their jumpers walking around London!

    • If you were in Rome or Naples in the 80s, you would have noticed that local women walking outdoors were constantly on guard if they had a handbag. They all walked close to the building walls with their handbags on the shoulder furthest away from the roadway or held under their arm..

      That was during the time when Vespa drive-by purse snatching was a local epidemic. As a result, it was usually the insouciant tourists who had their handbags snatched. If they were smart, they let go. If not, they got dragged along the road with even more unpleasant results.

      This has stopped since Rome became a police state with a police car parked in every square and footpatrols that are so ubiquitous that you can’t even take an afternoon nap on a park bench. Perhaps London should add Francesco Rutelli and Walter Veltroni to the consulting team.

  9. I am very sorry that Ms. Dariescu was assaulted in such a brutal way and glad to hear that she and her colleague are OK.

    As a veteran traveller to large cities, it is highly advisable to research crime trends and techniques before going there. If you lived in NYC in the 80s and part of the 90s, you would have known that it was extremely inadvisable to, e.g., wear an expensive watch if you were planning to walk anywhere outside of 5th Avenue. If there are warning signs hanging in the Tube, a tourist – prime pickings for local criminals – would do well to pay attention. As should residents, who should be even more informed than tourists.

    Fortunately, nothing ever happened to me in NYC, but it has only been a couple of years since I got over the habit of never carrying a wallet and having my credit cards etc. in a pocket separate from a $20 or 20 Euro bill in another pocket. I did get conned once in Paris, but that was only for 15 Francs, and a pickpocket tried to get into the wrong pocket – the one with my credit cards – in Florence once. But having read about the trick she was using, I caught her by the wrist before she could remove anything.

    If they could clean up the mess that was NYC in the 80s and 90s, there is hope for London too. Hire Giuliano and Bloomberg as consultants.

    • I, too, was thinking that this incident sounded like something from New York City ca. 1980-1992.

      But my first thought upon reading the story was, Wow – that sure wouldn’t happen in New York. Not now.

      Not to brag or anything …

      However, any of you good folks who may have been avoiding NYC because you thought it was dangerous, come on and visit. It’s been the safest large city in the US for some time now.

      I wouldn’t suggest hiring Rudy Giuliani as a consultant, though. (For one thing, he’s a mean SOB …) The fellow to hire would be William Bratton, former chief of police in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, As a matter of fact, here’s an article from The Daily Beast last August in which Bratton suggests that he’d be available, should London authorities determine that he’s eligible for the job.

      • MWnyc,

        I must admit I thought the same thing, but then wondered if perhaps I and my friends had just been lucky in New York. It certainly does feel as if nothing like these attacks would happen. I’ve felt very free there on my most recent visits, even away from the center.

        This story was shocking to me. I don’t think of London as someplace with this type of crime.

      • I believe Boris tried to. And Bratton got nowhere, because he wasn’t a UK cop. Metropolitan Police dug their heels in & wouldn’t even interview him.

  10. Reggie Benstein says:

    It’s just not happening in London ! People everywhere are advised to conceal their high-end gadgets while riding on the Tube as well. iPhones in particular are hot items.

  11. As a 63 yr-old white female, living in Tower Hamlets, I feel relatively safe. My smartphone is not an iPhone, though. A friend of mine has recently been mugged for his iPhone (again, in north London). I do sympathise with both victims – but it does reinforce the sad message that parts of London are not safe, & using desirable gadgets as though London were New York is highly inadvisable. As for more police on the streets while the wretched Games are on: why, they will all be in Stratford!

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