Deliveroo rider bites off man's thumb in argument with customer over pizza

20 March 2024, 08:56 | Updated: 20 March 2024, 08:59

Mr Jenkinson said the case raised questions about Deliveroo's responsibility for its delivery drivers
Stephen Jenkinson says the case raises questions about Deliveroo's responsibility for its delivery drivers. Picture: Getty

By Flaminia Luck

A deliveroo rider has pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm after biting off the thumb of a customer who ordered a pizza.

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Jenniffer Rocha, 35, attacked Stephen Jenkinson near his home in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 14 December 2022.

Mr Jenkinson had ordered a pizza through the food delivery app but an argument ensued when Rocha arrived at the wrong place and Mr Jenkinson could not provide her with the delivery code after leaving his phone inside.

He raised his hand to Rocha's motorcycle helmet and she bit his thumb.

"All I remember, I was shaking her helmet trying to get her off," he told the BBC.

After letting go, Mr Jenkinson lifted up his arm and "sprayed her with blood".

His thumb was severed just above the knuckle.

"The force with which she must have been biting, she'd clean taken it off," he said, adding it was as if he had "gone through a chainsaw".

February 20, 2024: February 20, 2024, Brazil. In this photo illustration, the Deliveroo logo is displayed on a smartphone screen (Credit Image: © Rafapress/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!
Deliveroo has said it was an "awful incident". Picture: Alamy

The judge at Winchester Crown Court described it as a "serious offence". Rocha is due to be sentenced on 3 May.

The 36-year-old plumber by training said he had been unable to work since the attack.

Part of his big toe was grafted onto the stump of his missing thumb, following months of reconstructive surgery. He added he still had no sensation in it.

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He has also had to relearn basic activities such as doing up buttons or tying shoelaces.

"Financially, I'm ruined. I'm unemployed. I'm in a massive amount of debt and I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

His relationship with his girlfriend, the mother of their newborn daughter, also broke down following the incident.

"I have to live with this for the rest of my life," Mr Jenkinson said.

"I want to use this story to help others, to say 'this has to change'," he added.

Mr Jenkinson said: "At the moment, I'm getting nothing from Deliveroo".

Deliveroo has said it was a "terrible incident"
Deliveroo does not employ any drivers or riders directl. Picture: Alamy

Deliveroo, like many food delivery apps, does not employ any drivers or riders directly. They are classed as independent contractors and can appoint "substitutes" to deliver on their behalf.

Rocha had been working as a "substitute" rider using someone else's account.

She was in the UK legally and had the right to work here.

Deliveroo said its riders were covered by the company's own free insurance.

However, as Rocha was working as a substitute for another driver, Deliveroo cannot be held legally responsible.

Solicitors representing Mr Jenkinson said her insurance policy did not cover injury caused by a criminal act.

He said he is "getting nothing from Deliveroo".

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He said the case raised questions about the company's responsibility for scrutinising its delivery drivers.

His lawyer, Alex Barley from Slater Heelis, said the practice of substitution should be stopped.

"Companies should be required to carry out necessary checks on all people working for them.

He added: "Companies operating in the gig economy should be held to account for the actions of the people they rely on for their significant profits."

In a statement, Deliveroo said it was an "awful incident", adding it had ended the rider's account.

The compnay said its riders were self employed - a fact which had been "confirmed by UK courts on multiple occasions".

They added: "Substitution is and always has been a common feature of self employment - it is not specific to Deliveroo, nor our sector".

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