Monday, 10 September 2012


On 19 February 2010, Petronella Wyatt wrote about 'rogue bicycles' in the Mail after her mum was hit by a cyclist in London. The cyclist 'didn't bother to stop' and Petronella's mum was left with a broken right arm.

Later in the article, she mentions having her bag snatched:

When I was mugged two years ago in Kensington, West London, it was by a youth on a bike who rode on to the pavement, snatched my bag and disappeared at high speed. No one could stop him, even after I yelled that the bag was a fake.

If that was 'two years ago', that was 2008.

On 8 September 2012, a Petronella Wyatt article about 'lycra-louts' and a 'thuggish minority of cyclists' was published on MailOnline. It revealed that on 16 August, Wyatt's mum was hit by a cyclist in London. The cyclist 'failed to stop' and Petronella's mum was left with a broken right arm.

Wyatt reveals that her mum was then knocked down again three days later but, strangely, she does not mention the 2010 incident. At all.

But later in the article, she mentions having her bag snatched:

In 2012, I had my handbag stolen by a gang of youths on bikes.   

Are these two women just exceptionally unlucky with cyclists? Three accidents, two arm breaks and two muggings within a few years is very unfortunate.

Or is there something else going on here?

Look at how Wyatt describes telling a female friend about her mum's accident in 2010:

Last week I met a friend for coffee. 'How is your mother?' she asked. I stared into my latte. 'Um, she had a serious accident. Her arm is broken.' 'Oh, no. What on earth happened?' 'She was run down by a bicycle.'

The inevitable convulsion took place in the nerves of my friend's face. She looked as if she was going to laugh. She could not suppress a gurgling sound before she managed to compose her features into the correct position of commiseration and shock, and say: 'How awful!'

Curiously, there was a very similar reaction from a male friend when she told him about the 2012 incident:

Yesterday, a friend telephoned to ask about her health. 'She would be feeling better,' I replied, 'if she hadn't been hit by another bicycle the other evening.'

I could hear a convulsion in his voice. It sounded like stifled laughter. He could not repress a gurgling sound before he managed to compose himself to express sympathy and shock. 'Again? How awful!'

Does Wyatt really have two friends who make gurgling noises when told an elderly woman has been knocked down by a bike, before they look shocked and say: 'How awful!'?

Questions about these articles have also been raised by and bikebiz.

(Hat-tip to @WorkingMan)


  1. I notice that the 2010 article has a comment attached to the end stating that part of the article is factually incorrect. As with the recent EU MOT car modification stories, it seems to be case of publish first and don't check the facts later.

  2. I submitted a complaint to the PCC on the basis that the stories were copied and pasted and unlikely to be true.

    The MoS replied in brief saying that there had in fact been 3 incidents, and the mugging occurred in 2008 but there had been an error in copy editing.

    I said that the chance of 3 such incidents in 2 years to the same person was so small as to be zero (only around 40 such incidents occur per year) and it was much more reasonable to conclude that the article was fabricated, copied, pasted, and then subjected to minor edits.

    They responded as follows:

    "There were three separate incidents: One in 2010, which Miss Wyatt wrote about that that time, and two more this year. She has provided details as follows:

    “1. The first incident. Date. 10/03/2010. My mother was crossing St Johns Wood Terrace in the early evening. A cyclist with no lamps knocked her down and didn't stop. She was able to get up and walk to the nearby went to the Wellington Hospital, which is about 100 yards away or less, and her left arm was put in a cast. The police were not called on this occasion, as she did not need an ambulance to get to the hospital. The surgeon who attended to her arm is called Simon Moyes.
    2. The second incident. Date: 16th August, 2012. My mother was crossing Regent Street between four and five in the afternoon. A cyclist shot a red light and didn't stop. Passers-by called an ambulance which took her to St Mary's Hospital in Praed Street, W2. Her right arm was put in a cast. She was badly hurt and the police were informed.
    3. The third incident. In the late afternoon/eve of the 4th September, 2012, she was hit by a cyclist whilst crossing St Johns Wood High Street, NW8. Once again, the cyclist shot a red light. On this occasion, as on the first, she was able to get up, though she was very badly bruised close to her left eye. Had it been closer she might have lost the sight of her eye. The cast on her arm was reset the following day in St Mary's Hospital, Praed Street, W2, because the fall had caused the right arm to swell under the cast which gave her great pain during the night. Thus, the following morning they put on a looser cast. She was told that without an operation her hand will never be the same again.”

    We have already explained there was an editing mistake causing the article to say that Miss Wyatt had been mugged by a youth on a bicycle in 2012. In fact this incident occurred in 2008. Police were informed at that time. We do not accept this was a significant inaccuracy since the article did not suggest there had been two such incidents.

    Nonetheless, to resolve the matter, we would be willing to publish the following clarification:

    “An article on September 9 said the writer Petronella Wyatt had her handbag stolen by a gang of youths on bicycles in 2012. In fact there was an editing mistake and the incident actually occurred in 2008, as Miss Wyatt wrote in a previous article in 2010. Her mother has been hurt in three incidents involving cyclists.”"

    My guess is the 2010 incident is genuine, the others seem doubtful but nothing further can be done to disprove it I guess.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for posting the details of your complaint.

      If we accept those details are true, it still seems baffling that she didn't mention the 2010 incident in the recent article, as it would have strengthened her argument.

      And it still seems very, very strange that two of her friends seem to have reacted in identical ways (gurgling, then saying 'how awful') when told of the incidents.

    2. Yes very strange, they are attributing it to shit journalism effectively - what seems like a serious issue of an elderly woman being hit twice in a month following a similar incident only 2 years earlier is in fact not serious enough for Ms. Wyatt to come up with some original copy.

      Whatever the truth of it, it's garbage journalism.


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