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Rioter who set fire to 150-year-old shop pleads guilty

BLAZE: Furniture shop, Reeves, was raised to the ground during last simmer's riots. Gordon Thompson has pleaded guilty

THE MAN responsible for burning down a 150-year-old furniture shop during last summer’s riots has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey today.

Gordon Thompson, 33, changed his plea from not guilty to the arson and burglary of The House of Reeves in Croydon two days into his trial after overwhelming evidence against him was played out in court.

Thompson also pleaded guilty to violent disorder and burglaries at House of Fraser and Iceland during the disorder, which occurred in the London borough last August.

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.

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.

Thompson was arrested on August 14 by a local police officer who recognised him.

He was interviewed on five occasions but refused to comment.

Superintendent Simon Messinger, Croydon Borough, said: "People all across the country were outraged by the shocking images of local businesses and homes being destroyed by mindless criminals on the 8 August 2011.

The fire at Reeves Corner provided some of the most iconic images but we must also remember that other businesses and homes were destroyed and local people were lucky to escape without serious harm.”

So far 416 people have been arrested in Croydon for their involvement in the disorder with 273 people charged.

Thompson is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on April 11.

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