A death at the hands of police – and a vigil that turned to violence
No one can say for certain what triggered Saturday night's conflagration. Tom Peck pieces together the key events
As Mark Duggan rode in a minicab over the Ferry Lane Bridge near Tottenham Hale underground station early on Thursday evening, he texted his girlfriend to say: "The feds are following me." Minutes later the 29-year-old father of four was dead.
As an alleged gangster better known to many as "Starrish Mark", he had been under police surveillance for some time. Officers approached his car with the intention of making an arrest. Shots were fired. One officer's radio was hit by a bullet and Mr Duggan was shot and killed. It was reported last night that the round recovered from the radio was a police-issue bullet. A gun was also recovered from the scene. One eyewitness claims Mr Duggan was shot while he was pinned to the floor by police, a claim that is now part of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The circumstances of Mr Duggan's death are controversial, but they bear little relation to the carnage that engulfed the dead man's neighbourhood on Saturday night and, in the words of David Lammy, the area's MP, "ripped the heart out of our community".
Mr Duggan's parents, his girlfriend and his MP had all been asking for an explanation as to why and how he had been killed, when around 100 people marched from near Mr Duggan's home on the infamous Broadwater Farm Estate, to Tottenham police station on Saturday evening, where they held a vigil that began peacefully.
But numbers swelled and the mood turned hostile. A number of eyewitnesses said a 16-year-old girl was "set upon" by several police officers and struck with a baton after she had "thrown something". Others claim that by this point the officers were already under fire from rocks and stones. Police said last night they were investigating the claims.
What is not disputed, however, is that the ensuing criminality that spread for miles around was largely unconnected to the anger engendered by the young man's death. Sports and electrical goods shops several miles away from the police station were still being looted as daylight broke yesterday morning.
By that time, Tottenham High Road was being likened to a war zone. Police cars, shops and a double-decker bus were set on fire all the way along the high street. A supermarket and a large carpet shop were gutted by fire as well as several smaller shops, where flames spread to flats that sit above them, gutting those too.
By last night 55 people had been arrested, and 26 police officers injured. Two remain in hospital, one with head injuries. Three members of the public were reported injured.
Earlier, police had attempted to block the entrance to Tottenham High Road with two police cars, but at around 8.30pm these were set on fire. An hour and a half later the bus was set on fire as well.
The first set of firefighters dispatched to deal with the burning cars said they were ordered to retreat for their own safety. By late on Saturday night, news of the event was being discussed on Twitter, and eventually on 24-hour news channels. Some reporters and photographers sent to the area were attacked by young men, their faces covered with scarves and balaclavas. The BBC stopped broadcasting live coverage of events when its satellite truck was attacked at around 1.15am. But the perpetrators of the violence were just as active. One Twitter user by the name of "English Frank" said: "Everyone up and roll to Tottenham f*** the 50 [police]. I hope 1 dead tonight."
Another, "Sonny Twag", tweeted: "Want to roll Tottenham to loot. I do want a free TV. Who wudn't."
"Mrs Lulu" tweeted: "Brehs [men] asking who's down to roll [go] Tottenham right now, to get justice. – RIP Mark x."
By midnight police had managed to secure a 200-metre stretch of Tottenham High Road, allowing fire engines to enter the street, at which point many residents said they thought the situation was dying down.
But rioters spread north and west through back streets, and it was after this point that the large Aldi supermarket at Tottenham Hale was ransacked and set on fire.
Cash machines were ripped out of shops. A safe was seen being carried from a bookmakers. An extraordinary video filmed in broad daylight from a car driving down Wood Green High Street at 5.50am, several miles from Tottenham High Road, shows early-rising dog walkers sharing the pavement with masked young men kicking at the shutters of a jewellery shop, with others emerging from a ransacked JD Sports with armfuls of sports clothes and trainers.
Stuart Radose lived in a flat above the Carpetright store on Tottenham High Road that was completely destroyed. Yesterday morning he said he had "lost everything". "I think we've probably spent our last night in Tottenham. We're just in shock. I don't know how this was allowed to happen. The only things that we have are the clothes on us."
Mr Radose told Sky News: "It was maybe two o'clock in the morning when I saw it was on fire, but we couldn't go out because of all the people around. The front of the house was on fire... and after the flames were coming into our building and we were running away. Now we are homeless."
Pubs, shops and restaurants several miles from Tottenham closed early yesterday, amid concerns over the prospect of further disorder last night.
Meanwhile, Saturday night's devastation has done nothing to abate the anger of Mark Duggan's girlfriend, Semone Wilson, who is mother to three of his children. "When we were outside the police station last night we wanted someone to come out. We want some answers. I have not even told my children that he is dead because we cannot give them any answers," she said. "I am not happy about what has happened. What we wanted was answers. We didn't want this trouble."
Representatives from the IPCC, who are piecing together precisely what happened on the Ferry Lane Bridge, were to meet with Ms Wilson yesterday. Meanwhile police have set up Operation Withern to investigate the events of Saturday night.
Commander Adrian Hanstock called Tottenham an "enormous crime scene", where faint grey plumes of smoke still hang in the air. There are thousands more questions, and even more people wanting answers.
The tinder box estate
About 5.30pm some 120 people left the Broadwater Farm estate and marched to Tottenham police station. Imposing and infamous, the estate was built in the 1960s and home to about 4,000 residents – including Mark Duggan, who was shot by police on Thursday. The estate, historically described as one of the worst places to live in England, was the scene of the 1985 riot that saw a policeman stabbed to death by a rioting mob. PC Keith Blakelock was killed as he tried to support firemen after a newsagent blaze but was surrounded by rioters. A massive regeneration of the estate followed, which improved the housing stock and led to reduced crime rates.
The protest that boiled over
Protesters arrived at Tottenham police station demanding "justice" for Mr Duggan's family about 5.40pm. Peaceful demonstrators were unhappy police did not send a senior officer to talk to them. The High Road was closed, but trouble erupted when the police tried to break up the crowd.
The lives shattered
Aaron Biber's hairdressing salon that was ransacked during the riot. A number of shopkeepers and traders had their properties looted and torched. Along the High Road shop windows were smashed, a petrol bomb was thrown, and several buildings were set on fire.
Spark that lit the fuse
The killing of a father-of-four triggered the protest that turned into a riot.
Mark Duggan was shot dead by armed officers on Thursday evening. Police say he opened fire when they pulled over a car he was travelling in. His family dispute he shot at an officer.
The buildings destroyed
Along with the torched double-decker bus, the burning shell of the building containing Carpet Right has become the enduring image of the riots. Above the shopfront were 30 flats – the riots left their tenants, and others, homeless.
Other buildings up and down the High Road were looted and torched, including Lidl, Barclays and JD Sports, and rioters raided McDonald's. Teenagers and adults looted almost all the stores in Tottenham Hale Retail Park half a mile away, and three miles away rioters looted shops in Wood Green High Road.
Police said one officer had been taken to hospital and seven others were injured. Seven more were taken to hospital. Some 26 officers were injured and 42 people were arrested.
The vehicles torched
A stranded double-decker bus was set alight as the disorder spread, billowing flames into the High Road for hours. Two unmanned police cars were also attacked – one pushed into the road before being burnt. Last night, Scotland Yard said 55 arrests had been made – 51 on Saturday night and four yesterday.
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The violence did not reach the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, but there are concerns the riots could fuel the desire of club chairman Daniel Levy to leave N17. If one of the biggest employers in the borough left, it would be a huge blow to an already deprived area.
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