‘Cowardly’ thief left cyclist to die in canal

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A CORONER has attacked a “cowardly” thief who stole a man’s bicycle as he lay dying in a canal just yards away.

Adam Lowther, 22, took the cycle belonging to Michael Houghton, 51, without stopping to help the keen cyclist who was lying face down in the stretch of water, an inquest heard.

The hearing was told Lowther didn’t call for help because he had run out of battery charge on his phone but instead rode off on the bike, which he later sold for £20.

Mr Houghton, a married father-of-three, was on a daily cycle ride from his home in Horsforth, Leeds, to the city centre along the Leeds-Liverpool canal when he ended up in the water on Saturday, July 30, last year.

The inquest heard the towpath had eroded near where Mr Houghton, a retired banker, was found and it appears he may have slipped off the path and ended up in the shallow water.

Lowther told the hearing at Leeds Coroner’s Court he did nothing to help because he assumed Mr Houghton was already dead when he took the bike.

But 10 minutes later, cyclist James Atkinson, and jogger William Bentall, saw Mr Houghton, got him out of the water and gave him CPR until paramedics arrived.

Coroner David Hinchliff, recording an open verdict, said Lowther could have called emergency services – even after he had pedalled away on the dying man’s bike.

Mr Hinchliff said: “The fact that he didn’t shows what a thoroughly cowardly and despicable young man he is in contrast with the two that did.”

Mr Houghton was taken by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary, but died three days later on August 2 last year.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Houghton had suffered brain damage caused by drowning.

Lowther was later charged with theft of the bike. He appeared before Leeds magistrates on November 11 last year and was jailed for four months. He has now served his sentence.

Addressing Mr Houghton’s family, Lowther said: “I’m really sorry for your loss. I didn’t mean it. I made a stupid mistake.”