Owner of looted shop slams police

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The Independent Online

A shopkeeper burst into tears this morning as she described the agonising wait for police to come to the scene of her looted couture clothes store.

Giselle Asante, 57, who has owned her tailor-made clothing business in Peckham High Street in south east London for 20 years, said she was alerted to looters targeting her shop at 1am but police had still not arrived at the scene by 9am.

The shop had been ransacked, with custom-made clothes stolen, including wedding dresses which were due to be collected by brides later this week.

A neighbour saw rioters force their way into the store, named Giselle, despite police being just 20 metres away.

Her daughter, Jan Asante, 33, said: "Riot police had formed a line down the road and there were a few police on the other side of the people that kicked in the door and they did nothing. A tenant upstairs was terrified.

"We called the police early this morning but they told us they were too busy and said they would meet us here at 8am. However, they just called and said they don't know when they will make it down.

"The thing that really hurt is that we got no warning from the police at all."

Giselle added: "It is truly devastating. We cannot replace any of these things because we have made them all.

"Police can't even touch the people that are looting someone's property.

"We are paying £6,000 in business rates each year for highway maintenance and use of the fire service and police but they didn't even stop people who were looting in front of them."

In Ealing, one eyewitness said he waited an hour for police after calling 999.

Today a row of three burnt-out cars, one tipped on its side, remained on The Green, a leafy area of the west London suburb.

Two fire engines were parked in front of a row of baby boutiques, organic food shops and Italian restaurants.

Witnesses said one baby shop had been completely looted and rioters had set the merchandise on fire outside in the street.

The frame of a burnt pram could be seen among the debris.

Alex Bortoletto, 42, who lives above Starbucks, which was also attacked, said he was so frightened he locked himself in the bathroom.

He said: "At about 9 o'clock I just heard a lot of noise, then all of a sudden there was about 150 of them and they tipped a car over and burnt it, then started ransacking everything.

"They were trying to break into Starbucks so me and my friend locked ourselves in the bathroom. The noise was so awful, we were so afraid we were going to be burnt, we were crying and shaking.

"We saw them carrying stuff out of the baby shop like prams and babygros, then burning it. We thought we were going to choke it was so smoky.

"When we looked outside all we could see was the light of the fire and there must have been about 200 of them by then.

"We were phoning the police and fire brigade but it took ages for them to answer and then it took forever for them to arrive.

"They got here about an hour later.

"We decided if they got into the shop then tried to get up to the flat we would try to hold the door but all they managed was to smash the windows.

"It was so scary. We couldn't believe it would spread here and we couldn't see what the police were doing - it looked like they weren't doing anything.

"We wanted them to be more aggressive, to use tear gas or something, but they weren't doing anything. The crowd only left when the fire brigade arrived at about 11pm. I didn't sleep at all."

Liz Pilgrim, 43, who owns the Baby e shop on The Green in Ealing, west London, said "thousands and thousands of pounds" worth of damage had been done to her shop.

Inside the store toys, booties and Ralph Lauren babygros littered the floor, drawers of Baby Dior clothing had been ransacked and the windows and door had been smashed.

The rails had been cleared apart from one or two items and crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers had been discarded. Muddy footprints covered the floor.

Ms Pilgrim, who has owned the shop for seven years, said what had happened was "devastating" and added: "I tried to get here last night after a neighbour called me to say the alarms were going off but I was met by gangs of youths. They were 14-, 15- 16-years-old and they seemed to come here by car so they may have been from out of the area.

"These shops are our livelihoods, so many businesses have been affected.

"From what I can see they were out to steal, they have taken designer clothes and maternity wear, targeting the stuff of high value and the well known brands.

"They demolished the desk and tried to climb up on it to get to the CCTV, there's a liquid on the wall which they must have thrown at the CCTV."

She said the clean-up job would be lengthy but added she had been "inundated with offers of help from the community".

Ms Pilgrim said: "There are crisp packets and chocolate bars, bottles of beer, there's even an empty bottle of champagne. They have obviously been eating and drinking things they have taken from cafes.

"We cannot give in to this thuggery, my message to the Home Office is get yourselves sorted out and do something. Get the Army involved, I don't care, but you must contain this violence."