Police accused of standing by as rioters burned and looted shops


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The Independent Online

The residents of Tottenham are demanding answers from the police amid accusations that too little was done to control London's worst riots in a generation.

Further disturbances took place last night in neighbouring Enfield, where a police car and shops were vandalised. Officers used dogs and baton charges in a bid to restore order.

In Tottenham, 26 police officers and three members of the public were injured in violence which erupted on Saturday night after a vigil for Mark Duggan (pictured), a 29-year-old man shot dead by police on Thursday. Anger spread before opportunistic looters ripped cash machines out of walls and stormed shops, carrying away what they could or loading up shopping trolleys. The looting continued yesterday morning as smoke still rose from burnt shops, a bus and two police cars.

The Metropolitan Police has launched an investigation into the riots and will review hours of CCTV and interview witnesses. Large sections of Tottenham High Road remained closed off yesterday evening after the smouldering remains of what had been a carpet store were declared unsafe.

"A community that was already hurting has had its heart ripped out," said the local MP David Lammy, whose constituency still holds bitter memories of the race-fuelled Broadwater Farm riot in 1985. Mr Lammy warned: "There are homeless people standing there. We don't know if there are fatalities within some of those homes which are now burned out."

The most severe violence took place on the High Road, where riot police on horseback faced streams of hooded youths armed with petrol bombs, bricks and other weapons.

Unrest then spread to Tottenham Hale retail park, where Argos, Currys, Comet and JD Sports were ransacked. By morning, looting had spread to Wood Green, two miles away. Teenagers and adults were said to have turned up in cars and filled them with stolen items, unimpeded by police, while others stuffed shopping trolleys with electronic goods.

Fiona Edwards, a student who had been working in Argos during her summer holidays, said: "They took jewellery, laptops, TVs, the tills – everything's gone." Hostility to the police remained yesterday – with "F**k the Police" daubed on roads and several buildings.

"There was no visible police presence," said a 60-year-old woman, who did not want to be named. "They stayed at the bottom of the High Road, watching the whole thing."

In a further development, it was reported last night that initial ballistics tests on a bullet found lodged in a radio worn by an officer during the attempted arrest on Thursday was police issue, and therefore not fired by Mr Duggan. The Met said it would be "inappropriate" to comment while an investigation was ongoing.

Police Commander Adrian Hanstock defended the Met's response. He said that a peaceful demonstration had been "hijacked by a small number of criminal elements".

There was also concern about an apparently sluggish response by politicians, with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Mayor of London all on holiday.