A TEENAGER has slammed the actions of heartless thieves after his bicycle and a number of others were ripped from their locks outside a North-East college.

IT student, Luca Pontone, said he had been left "gutted" and "devastated" after his £450 Voodoo Bantu bicycle was stolen from a bike shed at Darlington College.

The Northern Echo: Luca Pontone on his Voodoo Bantu bicycle, which was later stolenLuca Pontone on his Voodoo Bantu bicycle, which was later stolen

Mr Pontone of Harrowgate Village said he thought his bicycle would be safe after dot peen marking, and installing two secure locks to its frame.

But after finishing college at around 4.45pm on Tuesday (January 7), the 16-year-old told The Northern Echo that he was left in shock when he discovered it was gone.

He said: "To me it's not just a bike, I was on it all of the time – my dad bought me it as I was going out with my friends, we all loved going out.

"It's a real shame – In my time with it, I've biked to Middlesbrough, Eaglescliffe and Aycliffe from Darlington."

Discovering the £450 bicycle had been stolen, Mr Pontone first thought one of his friend's was playing a joke.

The Northern Echo:

He said: "At first I thought 'don't panic,' it'll be one of my friends, they've probably moved it somewhere but then my face just dropped when I saw the locks on the floor."

Slamming the person who took his bicycle, Mr Pontone said a number of other students had reported similar bicycle thefts to police in recent weeks.

He said: "My bike could have been stolen at any time, it could have been during the day or in the afternoon.

"We believe it's the same person who has stolen all three bikes recently."

On social media, dozens of students reported bicycles they thought had been safely stored at the college had been stolen. 

One parent of a Darlington College student said: "It's not fair on these kids who are trying to do something with their lives, instead of being thieving scum.

The Northern Echo:

"My son goes to the college and said a few were stolen today (Tuesday), his friend has had two stolen from there in the past couple of months."

Mr Pontone said he has since had to rely on his father to take him to college, or face a lengthy walk across town.

He added: "I thought it would be safe, I can't believe someone has had the nerve.

"I don't want to get my hopes up, I probably won't get my bike back.

In response, a spokesperson for Darlington College said: “We understand the upset and frustration cycle theft causes to those that lose their property and the college has taken significant measures to try and deter these thieves from stealing property.

“In the past, the police have placed one of their marked cycles with a built in tracker into the shelter and we would be keen for them to do the same again to help to catch the perpetrators.”

A Durham Police spokesperson said: “We have received reports of bikes being stolen from the bike racks at Darlington College, and are engaging with the college to review CCTV footage and make the appropriate inquiries.

“In the meantime, our advice is that anybody leaving their bike unattended makes sure it is properly secured with a good quality bike chain.

“Additionally, try to avoid leaving your bike chained up overnight.

"If you decide to take the bus home in the evening, for example, take your bike with you rather than leaving it behind.”