Man jailed for furniture shop arson
11/04/2012 - 12:06:56
A looter has been jailed for eleven and a half years for starting a huge fire that destroyed a 140-year-old furniture shop during last summer’s riots in London.
Gordon Thompson, 34, was sentenced at the Old Bailey for arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London, and burglary.
The blaze was so fierce that buildings on the other side of the street and tramlines in the road caught alight.
Thompson, of Waddon Road, went on a rampage through Croydon on August 8, looting Iceland and House of Fraser before turning on Reeves.
He was given 11 and a half years for the arson, two years each for two counts of burglary, and three years for a third count of burglary, to run concurrently.
Judge Peter Thornton told him: “This day was a bad day for Croydon and the people of Croydon.
“Perhaps the most shocking event was that the House of Reeves was set alight and burned to the ground, putting lives at risk.”
He said the shop “had stood on the site for over 140 years, proudly giving its name to its location, Reeves Corner. You were about to bring all that to an end”.
“This was a deliberate, wilful act of shocking, dangerous vandalism.”
The judge continued: “The Reeves family lost their historic business, something they and generations before had lived and worked for all their lives. Their loss is priceless. The trauma they have suffered is inestimable.”
Thompson followed other looters into Reeves and stole a laptop, before deciding to set fire to a sofa in the shop window.
As the blaze caught hold it spread to buildings on the opposite side of the road, forcing residents to flee.
One woman, Monika Konczyk, had to throw herself from the building where she lived to escape the flames.
Thompson admitted starting the fire on February 24 – shortly after the start of his trial.
He had been filmed on mobile phones and by CCTV cameras as he attacked the shop.
The court heard that the total financial loss to the Reeves family was an estimated £3m (€3.6m)
In a victim impact statement Trevor Reeves said: “The total destruction of the site has been a bereavement to me, I just can’t understand what I have done to make someone do this to me.”
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow said of Mr Reeves’ father Maurice: “At the age now of 80 he had worked in the shop since the age of 16. It was his life and, as he regarded it, his life had now been destroyed.”
The shop had been in the family for generations, and Mr Reeves said: “I wonder with despair what my father and grandfather would make of the situation.”
The court also heard that those who witnessed the enormous blaze, some of whom saw their homes destroyed, were left traumatised.
Ms Konczyk, who lived in a building opposite Reeves, was left too scared to go out and could not go to work without her sister accompanying her.
Others escaped with their young children and felt they were lucky to be alive.
In mitigation, the court heard that Thompson had been depressed about his divorce at the time of the riots, and had not intended to cause such huge damage by setting fire to one sofa cushion.
He “could not believe” what he had caused, and it would be something he would “regret for a long time”.
Adam Davis QC, for Thompson, said: “He wanted me on his behalf to apologise to all those involved and in particular the Reeves family for what happened as a result of his reckless actions and apologise for the loss that he has caused them, a loss that he could not have foreseen.”
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