Suspected thief in store gas attack

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The Independent Online
Police fear that a shoplifter's use of a CS gas canister to avoid arrest in a London supermarket shows that criminals operating in Britain's stores are becoming more ruthless.

Seven people were taken to hospital suffering from nausea and dizziness after the man sprayed gas around the Asda supermarket in Clapham, south-west London, and escaped during the resulting chaos. All the victims went home after treatment.

A police officer said yesterday: "It was a particularly nasty attack and our concern now is that shoplifters may be prepared to resort to any method to avoid being detained."

The incident occurred on Tuesday evening when a security guard approached the man, who was suspected of trying to steal two or three bottles of spirits, in the foyer of the store. The man sprayed the guard in the face with CS gas, which also affected nearby shoppers when strong winds blew it back into the building. He then ran from the store, dropping the stolen bottles outside.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "One male member of the security staff and six female shoppers were taken to hospital. The gas, in a cloud, affected others in the store and approximately 20 other staff and shoppers suffered irritation but declined medical treatment."

The man is described as white, 5ft 10in to 6ft tall and aged about 30, with collar-length dirty blonde hair and unshaven. He was wearing a black Umbro zip-up jacket with the collar up with a white motif on the back, black trousers and brown shoes.

Paul Baker, manager of the store, said: ``We have got the man recorded on security camera and we have handed that over to the police.'' Scotland Yard yesterday appealed for witnesses to the incident.