The critically injured man being helped by civilians and police in Ealing moments after he was beaten to the ground by thugs has become an abiding image of the bravery of ordinary Londoners confronting the rioters bringing ruin to their neighbourhoods.
But as he clung to life in intensive care yesterday with a "very, very serious" head injury, the middle-aged man, who remonstrated with his attackers outside a looted shopping centre on Monday night, remained an anonymous hero. Detectives said they had been unable to identify him and appealed to find his next of kin.
Police said the well-dressed white man, believed to be aged between 45 and 55, had no wallet or mobile, raising the possibility he was robbed by the assailants who had apparently turned on him because he criticised them for setting light to two industrial wheelie bins and asked them to calm down.
Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane, who is leading the investigation into the assault, said the man was caught up in a fast-moving confrontation between youths and police near the Arcadia shopping centre on Ealing Broadway at around 10.45pm.
Mr McFarlane, who said the attack was witnessed by a conventionally uniformed officer, said: "The victim was seen trying to stamp out the fire which had been started in one of two big rubbish bins. There was then clearly an exchange between the man and members of the mob. The man was attacked and knocked to the ground."
He said the officer who saw the assault was attacked with missiles. He called for help from officers in protective gear who dragged the man to safety. The man was then treated by police and members of the public.