Man admits starting House of Reeves Croydon riot blaze

 

A man today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed a family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.

Gordon Thompson, 33, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London in August last year.

The shop had stood at the site since 1867, before it was razed to the ground by the fire.

He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.

Thompson's trial for starting the blaze, which was so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire, had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week.

But at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court that he had consulted with members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.

Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon - Iceland and House of Fraser - on the same evening.

Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.

Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that he will face "a long sentence of imprisonment".

The court had already heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, "ran riot through the streets" that day.

When he saw other rioters smashing the front window of Reeves, he climbed into the shop to steal a laptop, and after he left, decided to burn it down.

Mr Glasgow said: "On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.

"The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives.

"Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below."

A photographer captured a dramatic image of Monika Konczyk as she hurled herself from the building to escape the fire.

Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.

Speaking outside court, Maurice Reeves said that the blaze was so traumatic "parts of me have died".

"It's difficult to describe because it's been such a traumatic time for us. The building's been there all my life, I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building's not there.

"You can appreciate it's still sinking in and today brings all the memories back."

He added: "It's with tears in my eyes when I think about it."

Mr Reeves' son Trevor said: "It's a momentous day for everybody in Croydon to know that these people can be apprehended."

He said it was "heart-warming" to know that they had such strong support from the police.

Detective Superintendent Simon Messinger said: "People across the country were appalled and shocked at the level of violence and destruction that was committed on August 8, 2011. The images of Reeves Corner are probably some of the most iconic from that day."

He said that in the face of CCTV footage and film clips shot by local residents and eyewitnesses Thompson's guilty plea was "inevitable".

PA

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor