Brixton Commander apologises for failing to tackle 'war zone'

The Metropolitan Police Commander in charge of quelling riots in Brixton yesterday admitted his force had been stretched to the limit as mob violence erupted across London.

The Lambeth Borough Commander, Nick Ephgrave, said he "bitterly regretted" not containing the trouble before stores were smashed, burned and looted along the south London borough's high street.

Brixton, scene of similar disturbances in the 1980s, bore the brunt of a second night of chaos on Sunday after thousands of revellers attended a street party in the area. But, as night fell, revelry turned to violence as hundreds of youths in masks and hoods gathered, throwing bottles and rocks at the phalanx of armoured police attempting to subdue the unrest.

Yesterday acrid smoke still hung in the air around a burnt-out branch of the shop Foot Locker, while fist-sized rocks and packaging lay strewn across the car parks of Curry's and Halfords.

At least 20 other businesses, including a KFC, WH Smith, McDonald's and Tesco, were attacked as police struggled to contain the mob, which witnesses said grew as messages were sent by rioters with mobile phones.

Speaking yesterday at a crisis meeting of local community leaders, Commander Ephgrave said: "I regret bitterly that we could not get to the high street in time. What I didn't want was for my men to abandon their position and go chasing up the hill only to come back to find people had come round the back and started looting shops and off-licences there.

"You are hearing it through the crackling radio and it's the fog of war stuff and it is difficult to make crystal-clear perfect decisions all the time."

He said there were three stabbings during the night and one police officer had to "have his face stitched up" after being attacked for attempting to foil a burglary. He also said it was almost impossible to anticipate the violence because the culprits had communicated through BlackBerry Messenger service which is "difficult to intercept, unlike Twitter and Facebook, because of their secure PIN services".

He added that there was no political motivation behind the unrest, which was due to the actions of "chancers and hot heads".

John Dawson, 31, a postman, watched from his flat in St Matthews estate opposite Curry's and Halfords as rioters ran in and out "like ants" ferrying televisions and electrical equipment. "It was like a war zone out there. For about an hour they were shouting and smashing the shop windows with hammers and crowbars. They soon came out with TVs, laptops, bicycles. This went on until 3am or 4am."

About a mile away, a mob of around 50 attacked Tesco, forcing open the metal shutter and attempting to steal cash registers and food.

Enzo Antinoro, the store manager, said the 20-strong staff who were stocking shelves when they came under attack were forced to barricade themselves in a back room in terror. "They gave self-service another meaning," he said. "We are just thankful none of our staff were hurt."

One local shopkeeper, whose store is next door to McDonald's and who refused to give her name, said a police officer told her thugs had stolen around £9,000 in cash after smashing their way in. "We just shut the shutters and hid at the back of the shop," she added.

Suggested Topics
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on