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London riots: 11 years for man who set fire to Croydon shop

JAILED: Gordon Thompson

A MAN who set fire to a south London furniture shop during last summer’s riots, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Gordon Thompson, 33, who pleaded guilty to the arson of The House of Reeves in Croydon also admitted three burglaries for which he was sentenced to serve eight years concurrently.

On August 8, Thompson forced his way into the stores to loot and burgle them. He then deliberately set fire to a sofa in the furniture showroom of House of Reeves destroying a family business, which had stood at that site for over 150 years.

The first of his criminal acts that night was a burglary at Iceland on Surrey Street when he brazenly looted the store. However Thompson was captured on film with the items he had stolen and that photograph appeared on the front page of the local newspaper.

A short time later Thompson was again caught on CCTV entering the House of Fraser store and reemerging five minutes later with armfuls of stolen goods.

CCTV also captured Thompson at Reeves Corner where he ripped a shattered glass pane from its frame and entered the premises. This time he stole a laptop computer and on leaving the store he asked another person for a lighter. As soon as he was given one, he set fire to a sofa inside the shop. 

The resulting fire was devastating.

Once House of Reeves was ablaze, glowing embers from the fire set light to the residential property on the other side of the road and residents were forced to flee for their lives.

BLAZE: Furniture shop, Reeves, was raised to the ground during last simmer's riots.

The furniture shop was raised to the ground and all that remained were the supporting walls and a pile of smoldering rubble.

The fire produced one of the most iconic images from the disorder, which was sparked by a riot in Tottenham, north London and subsequently brought parts of the UK to a standstill.

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) London Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, Jenny Hopkins, said: "Gordon Thompson’s callous actions recklessly endangered the lives of many innocent people, not least the firefighters who bravely extinguished the blaze. Few will forget the terrifying ordeal of Monika Konczykn, whose flat overlooked the store. She had to throw herself from her blazing flat into the arms of those same firefighters after she had become trapped by the flames.

“A much loved and memorable local building was razed to the ground and the efforts of five generations of hard-working members of the Reeves family to build up their family business were destroyed. Members of the public, both in Croydon and elsewhere, were shocked at the television footage, which showed the extent of the damage caused by Thompson’s actions.

"When faced with the strength of the case against him, Thompson pleaded guilty, which meant many witnesses did not have to relive distressing memories about what happened that night,” she added.

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