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Man accused of starting riots blaze

A man has appeared in court accused of starting a fire that destroyed a family furniture shop during the riots last year.

Gordon Thompson, 33, is charged with setting a sofa alight at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London, and causing a blaze so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told jurors at the Old Bailey that Thompson watched as others smashed the window of Reeves and was one of the first into the building.

He allegedly stole a laptop from the shop, and as he left asked around for a lighter.

Mr Glasgow said: "On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.

"The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives. Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below."

The court heard that Thompson has admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon - Iceland and House of Fraser - but denies any involvement in the attack on Reeves.

He is on trial for violent disorder, burglary of Reeves, arson with intent to endanger life and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, all on August 8 last year.

The court heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, "ran riot through the streets" that day, and a man who took a photo of him stealing bottles from Iceland feared he would be attacked.

Reeves had stood at the site for 150 years before the arson attack, the jury was told.


From Belfast Telegraph