Police are trying to locate a Premier League footballer named in an online search for a driver involved in an incident involving a cyclist in Manchester.
One player's name has come up in the course of a Twitter campaign backed by Sir Chris Hoy to find a driver accused of laughing at the cyclist’s chances of finding him via his foreign number plates.
Rob Lockhart had been riding through Hale in Trafford last Thursday evening when, he claimed, the driver of a matt-black Audi Q7 braked suddenly in front of him, pulling over to park on double yellow lines.
Mr Lockhart, 38, said the manoeuvre had forced him to slam into the back of the car, causing him bruising to his face and damage to his high-end bicycle.
“My face and shoulder took the impact with the back of my professional level race bike going vertical into the air and slamming back down onto the road,” he told The Independent.
According to the cyclist’s account, the driver claimed not to have seen him as he left his car to make a cash machine withdrawal. When Mr Lockhart asked him to exchange insurance details, he said the driver declined.
“As he closed the door he laughed at me and said that I wouldn't be able to trace him because of his foreign registration plates,” Mr Lockhart claimed.
The cyclist reported the incident to police but understood they could not trace foreign registered cars for a minor incident.
Two witnesses took photos of the car and driver, which Mr Lockhart shared on Twitter. Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s track cycling hero, was one of thousands to share them. Soon many users had linked the driver to a player in the area who cannot be named for legal reasons.
A spokesman for the player’s club refused to confirm or deny his involvement in the alleged incident.
The player’s agent did not respond to repeated enquiries from The Independent.
Martin Porter QC, who writes a blog called The Cycling Lawyer, said a driver is legally obliged to swap details “if reasonably requested or to report to a police station within 24 hours.” The law applies whether the second party is a cyclist or driver, he added.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police confirmed it had received a report of an incident and was now making enquiries: “The driver failed to stop at the scene and we are making efforts to identify, trace and speak to him.
"Members of the public who witnessed what happened have also helped us and we are pursuing these leads. Any information we receive that may help will be acted upon."
Mr Lockhart said the site of the incident was notorious among cyclists for incidents involving drivers.
“Social media has been amazing,” he added. “The concern and spirit of the cycling community really came together. Hopefully this can be resolved quickly and I can get back to riding my bike again.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 7530 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.