Heroes and victims: people caught in the crossfire

Some took a noble stand, others earned the nation's sympathy – Charlie Cooper tells the stories of human drama from the riots
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The Independent Online

The woman who jumped

The woman pictured jumping from a burning building while silhouetted against the flames during rioting on Monday night has been identified as a Polish shop assistant.

Monika Konczyk, 32, came to Britain in March to join her older sister, Beata, 37, and intending to improve her English, but her narrow escape from a fire in Croydon has left her badly shaken. "She is incredibly traumatised as she feels she narrowly escaped death," said her sister. "'We are appalled. We always thought this country was so civilised."

She worked at Poundland and was in her first-floor rented flat in Croydon when the building was set alight by rioters. Thick smoke quickly filled the stairways and she was trapped inside. Vaz Juresco, a tattoo parlour owner, said: "You have no idea – the smoke was like a thick cloud. It wasn't just ash but hot rocks and bits of brick. They were spraying out like a shower." The intensity of the fire prevented anyone getting inside to lead her to safety but friends laid mattresses on the ground outside before encouraging her to jump into the arms of a neighbour and police.

The neighbour, a Romanian called Adrian, said: "We are neighbours. Nobody is a hero. I caught the girl."

The courageous PC

A gang of 50 hooded youths was routed when they tried to take on a group of six police officers protecting stores in Catford, south-east London. Stones and bottles were hurled at the police before the group of youths decided to charge – only to flee when instead of running away, the police ran straight at them. PC Gordon Murphy said: "We just thought: 'We are not having any of this.' We just showed a show of strength, with our shields and our batons drawn, shouting 'get back' and a few other war cries."

The 'heroine of Hackney'

A grandmother has been dubbed the "heroine of Hackney" after a video clip of her berating rioters was viewed by thousands of people on Twitter. Pauline Pearce, 45, known locally as Lady P, became an inspiration to a city reeling from Monday night's violence when she was caught on camera shouting down masked youths as cars and buildings burnt around her.

She told rioters and looters: "This ain't about fun and burning up the place." Defending a local shopkeeper whose building had been attacked she said: "She's working hard to make her business work and then you lot want to go and burn it up? For what? So you can say you're warring, so you can say you're bad man?"

More than 1.5 million people have watched the clip, which was re-tweeted by thousands of people, among them the former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, who said she was "my kind of woman".

Ms Pearce, a former jazz singer and local radio DJ on Hackney's Conscious FM, uses a walking stick and is recovering from breast cancer. She has also told of how she was attacked by youths while protecting a boy. "It was petrifying but I was just so angry," she told the London Evening Standard.

YouTube mugging victim

The student whose mugging during Monday's riots was caught on camera is recovering in hospital.

Asyraf Haziq, above right, a 20-year-old Malaysian, was attacked while on his way to buy food in Barking, east London. He was beaten, suffering a broken jaw and lost teeth, and his bike, mobile phone and wallet were stolen.

A video has been viewed by more than a million people. It shows the victim sitting on the ground by a pool of blood, surrounded by rioters. One appears to offer help, but as he does, others brazenly open up the rucksack on his back and take items out of it.

Mr Haziq, a student at the Kaplan International College in Islington, north London, is now recovering with treatment at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

Supporters have set up a fund through Twitter to "do something nice" for him. A donations website has pledged to "show to him and his country that only a tiny minority of us are scumbags". Playstation UK has pledged a games console and an unnamed manufacturer has offered a replacement bike.

The son who rescued mother

In Birmingham, a 15-year-old boy fought off a mob to rescue his mother, who had been attacked on her way home from a library.

Iftikhar Ahmed sprinted two miles to get to his mother, who had called him to say she had been set upon by 12 men carrying baseball bats. Fighting his way through a mob, he then carried his mother home to safety. Rashida Ahmed, 39, said Iftikhar saved her life. She suffered severe bruising to her face and back in the unprovoked attack.

A silver lining for a violinist

Composer and singer Leni White was devastated when she returned to find her home in Ealing gutted after rioters threw a petrol bomb through the window on Monday night. But the 31-year-old was consoled by the actions of one firefighter, who fought his way back into the building to rescue her violin. £30,000 of damage was done to the property, but the violin was saved from the flames by its protective case. "After losing everything, I can't describe how much it means to me to have my violin back," she said.