Barber whose shop was looted is cut a break with donations

Kevin Rawlinson
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:43
Aaron Biber assesses the damage to his hairdressing salon following riots in Tottenham
Aaron Biber assesses the damage to his hairdressing salon following riots in Tottenham

A campaign for cash donations to help an 89-year-old man who had his barber shop trashed in the rioting and looting in Tottenham has raised more than £14,000.

Three advertising agency interns started the push after they heard about the damage caused to the shop owned and run by Aaron Biber, who has lived in north London for more than 40 years. After Mr Biber said that "I will probably have to close because I haven't got insurance and I can't afford the repairs", they began to spread the message using social media.

"With all of this talk about young people using social media for such awful things, we wanted to do something to show people that we can do something good as well," said one of the interns, Bjorn Conradi, 23. His girlfriend told him about Mr Biber's story and, when they looked it up online, he – along with two fellow interns at the London ad agency BBH, Sophie Browness, 21 and Omid Fard, 28 – decided to do something about it.

Within days, they had raised thousands, which they said would go to Mr Biber, with any excess being spent on cleaning up the damage caused in Tottenham. Ms Browness has visited Mr Biber at his wrecked barbershop.

Ms Browness said he seemed dazed and disbelieving at what had happened to his business. Mr Conradi said: "Mr Biber does not even know what the internet is, the shop was his life, now he will have to close it down because he cannot operate without the equipment the looters took.

"We just hope to raise as much as possible to help him open up again. People are free to give as much or as little as they want."

Mr Biber's wife died last year and the man is said to be a "popular figure in the local community". On the website being used to collect the money, the interns wrote: "Let's use the internet, spread this and all donate a couple of quid so Aaron can get his shop back up and running so he will not have to worry how he's going to make a living at his old age." They said that "even his kettle had been stolen". Speaking to The Jewish Chronicle, Mr Biber called the looters meshuggenehs ("senseless"), adding: "It's mindless." His nephew Eddie, a solicitor who has helped with the clear-up operation at the shop, said: "That's just amazing that it's people just looking to help out. I know the council has got a committee set up to try and help people."

Mr Biber is not the only beneficiary of Londoners' renewed sense of altruism. During a visit to riot-hit Ealing yesterday to see first hand the extensive damage and talk to residents, Boris Johnson gave a boost to the local economy when heavy rain fell.

Stopping at a roadside stall, he asked if he could buy an umbrella. Trader Aish Al-Shokairy did not sell them but said, "You can have mine," and handed Mr Johnson his own. The Mayor gave him a £10 note.

Asked why he was willing to surrender his umbrella to the Mayor, the stallholder said: "I love him."

'I feel sorry for them'

Given that Ashraf Haziq was the victim of a brutal mugging at the hands of people who masqueraded as coming to his aid, he could have been forgiven for feeling animosity towards his attackers. Yesterday, though, he said he "feels sorry" for them. "It is very sad," he added at a press conference after being released from hospital.

Nearly 3 million people have seen a video showing the incident since it was posted on YouTube on Monday. Mr Haziq, a student from Malaysia, said he had been heartened by messages he received while he was being treated for a broken jaw. He had been mugged by youths in Barking, east London, who he said threatened to stab him and took his games console. A website named Let's do Something Nice for Ashraf Haziq was set up for people to make suggestions. One contributor offered to pay for his medical treatment, while another pledged to deliver new computer games yesterday.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery in connection with the attack.