A WOMAN is pleading for the thief who stole her beloved bike to return it to her after it was taken while she attended a funeral.

Southwick resident Charlotte Lincoln went through a “harrowing and upsetting” experience when she discovered her dark purple Ridgeback had been stolen.

The 32-year-old had spent the weekend in Gloucestershire at the funeral of friend James Robinson when she returned to find her bike replaced by a rusty bicycle near her Old Dairy Close home.

“The lock had been cut through and somebody had left their bike in its place, a real run-down rusty one,” the language school worker said.

“That’s not a fair trade.

“My bike was purchased with the cycle to work scheme so I’m still paying for a bike I don’t own.

“If the thief sees me in the paper I want them to know how much pain they have brought me.

“It’s not a great start to the week, especially with this really vulnerable time I’m going through.”

Given to Ms Lincoln as a gift last October, the bike was nicknamed Rhonda.

“She was feisty and quick, I would ride her into Brighton 50 miles a week,” she said.

“I loved that bike, I’ve never had one like it.

“I remember flying down Old Shoreham Road on it and looking at people’s faces as I overtook them.

“Now I have to get the bus or the train every morning and it’s not as fun.

“I was going to take her on the London to Brighton bike ride for charity.”

Ms Lincoln said she wanted to speak to the thief who stole her bike to tell them how she felt.

“I have a degree in criminology and I used to volunteer for a restorative justice programme where victims and criminals spoke to each other about how they felt,” she said.

“When criminals speak to victims they do tend to have this moment where they realise they haven’t just stolen a bike.

“I’m looking at everybody down the street now and wondering ‘Have you stolen my bike?’.

“I feel like I have the whole of the south east on lookout for it.

“With all the payments I’ve had to make I certainly can’t afford to do it again.”

The Southwick resident feels more needed to be done to deter bike thieves in the area.

She suggested installing CCTV in communal areas in flats.

“There’s no CCTV in the bike shed to deter people, then something they need to look into,” Ms Lincoln said.

“It might not be long before someone comes with a van and steals the lot.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "The bike was reported stolen from Old Dairy Close, Southwick at some time between 10pm on Friday and 5am on Monday.

"Anyone with information should call 111 and quote 378 of 10/02."