Boys held up at gunpoint for a phone and £25

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The Independent Online

Three boys, aged 10, 12 and 16, were held up by a gunman and forced to hand over a mobile telephone, £25 and bank cards, police said yesterday.

The robbery at a takeaway restaurant last week is one of the rising number of street crimes to be committed in London and happened days before the mugging of a 19-year-old woman who was shot in the head by a man after he stole her mobile phone.

The number of armed robberies in the city increased by 53 per cent, from 435 to 667 incidents, from April to November last year, compared with the same period in 2000.

Nathaniel Dias, 10, said he was with two other boys buying chicken and chips at 3.30pm on 28 December in Lewisham, south-east London, when the robber pointed a gun at his face and told him: "If you don't give me the money I will take your friend outside and shoot him in the head."

Speaking at his home in Honor Oak, near Lewisham, yesterday he said: "He showed me the gun. I was very scared and was in the corner of the shop shaking. He made me give him the £25 that my gran had given me for Christmas."

Nathaniel's mother, Sam Dias, 37, described how her son had arrived home after the attack in shock. She said: "He was standing at the door with tears running down his face, but nothing was coming from his mouth. I didn't know what had happened to him.

"When he finally told me it felt like someone took my stomach away.

"This has really changed him. He used to be a really kiddy kid, playing football and going out with his friends. But he's grown up overnight and just wants to stay at home now."

Details of the incident were revealed on the same day that Scotland Yard issued an e-fit image of the robber who shot a teenager in the head.

The 19-year-old Asian woman, who was attacked in Walthamstow, east London, has been allowed home to be with her family.

She was approached by a man who stopped her and demanded her Nokia 3310 phone on New Year's Day. After he snatched the phone he shot her. The bullet ricocheted off her head and fractured her skull.

The theft of mobile telephones is responsible for more than half of the current street attacks in London.

In another case disclosed yesterday ten children aged 10 to 13 were robbed of four mobile phones and pocket money as they left a cinema in south-east London by a gang of up to 40 older youths.

New figures for London show that in November there were 6,780 street crimes – robbery of personal property and snatch thefts – compared with 4,096 for the same month in 2000. The 66 per cent rise follows a 59 per cent increase for October and a 45 per cent increase for September.