11 Apr 2012

Looter jailed for 11 years after family business destroyed

A looter is jailed for eleven and a half years after starting a fire that destroyed a 140-year-old Croydon furniture shop during last summer’s riots.

Gordon Thompson, 34, was sentenced at the Old Bailey for burglary and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London.

Thompson, of Waddon Road, went on a rampage through Croydon on 8 August, 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.”

Priceless loss

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 borrowing a cigarette lighter from a passer-by and using it 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 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.