Friday 23 February 2018

Copycat violence spreads as gangs rampage for 4th night

Police detain a man near the site of looting in an electronics store near New St Station, Birmingham. Photo: PA
A policeman and his dog walk towards a burning car in central Birmingham yesterday
Riot police at an undisclosed location in London last night as they prepare to go into action
British Prime Minister David Cameron with Met police officer Superintendent Jo Oakley in Croydon, one of the areas visited by Mr Cameron yesterday

Pat Hurst and Kim Pilling

Hundreds of people were arrested as violence swept the length and breadth of England during a fourth consecutive night of rioting.

As ugly scenes of looting spread to Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham overnight, three men died after being hit by a car in the country's second city.

West Midlands Police launched a murder inquiry after the trio were struck in Winson Green at 1am.

Trouble also erupted in areas including Liverpool, Salford, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Bristol and Gloucester.

A beefed-up presence of 16,000 officers patrolling the capital resulted in a quieter night across London, with 81 arrests, taking the total detained by Scotland Yard since Saturday night to 768.

Fire bombs were thrown at shops and windows were smashed as looters made off with designer clothes, expensive electrical items, jewellery, mobile phones and alcohol.

Youths - many wearing masks and hooded tops - marauded throughout Manchester city centre and Salford shopping precinct from about 5pm yesterday. Some of those running wild looked to be as young as nine or 10.

The chaos ensued for hours and calm was not largely restored in both locations until around 1am as a total of 47 arrests were made with officers from Northumbria, Staffordshire and North Wales assisting Greater Manchester Police.

Riot police concentrated on containing the troublemakers in Manchester rather than seeking direct confrontation as they opted to take control street by street in a bid to flush out the offenders.

Beforehand, sporadic looting broke out across the city centre with gangs playing cat and mouse with riot police.

On occasions youths could be seen talking to drivers of cars on mobile phones, exchanging information, while they drove around the streets in what appeared to be co-ordinated manoeuvres.

Two youths used a stone slab to smash the front door of Foot Asylum in the Arndale Centre and more than 50 others followed in their tracks and rifled through the store for clothing and shoes.

Some items were thrown in the air in delight as raiders made off with their haul, only to be picked up by fellow looters.

Another mob successfully broke into Bang & Olufsen in King Street as the store was virtually wiped out of its electrical items.

Two youths brazenly carried out a widescreen TV, while two more later returned to the store for a photo opportunity as one posed smiling for the camera in his balaclava.

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher's recently opened fashion boutique in King Street - Pretty Green - had also fallen victim to the looters, while Miss Selfridge in Market Street was set alight.

At Salford Shopping City, just 200 yards from a large police station, evidence of the ferocity of the violence could be seen.

Glass from shop windows and bus shelters littered the streets along with house bricks and rubble used to pelt riot police.

Two cars, one believed to be a BBC radio car, lay over-turned and burnt out.

Firefighters came under attack from missile-throwing yobs as they attended incidents at Lidl supermarket in Jubilee Street, which was extensively damaged, and at several shop fires in Fitzwarren Street.

By 1am riot police and vans, one with a shattered windscreen, lined one shopping parade, with only small pockets of youths wandering the streets.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester Police said: "Criminals have brought shame in particular on the streets of Salford and Manchester.

"We want to make it absolutely clear - they have nothing to protest against. There is nothing in a sense of injustice and there has been no spark that has led to this. This has been senseless violence and senseless criminality of a scale I have never experienced in my career before.

"Over the past few hours, GMP has been faced with extraordinary levels of violence from groups of criminals intent on committing widespread disorder.

"This is nothing more than senseless violence with absolutely no regard for people, their property or livelihoods. These criminals have also attacked some of my officers and other emergency services who are simply trying to do their job to keep the public safe and restore order."

He said that offenders had been caught on CCTV and his message for them was "we will be coming for you".

Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, said he believed police had questions to answer on the disorder.

He said: "It was known that this was coming to Salford and Manchester, and now shops have been looted and set on fire.

"Businesses have been seriously damaged. There are a lot of questions that the Chief Constable needs to answer. The police need to get control of the streets, which they have failed to do.

"This was predicted. The police knew it was coming. It was coordinated and organised by well-known criminals and gangsters. They were taking the opportunity because of the publicity.

"It wasn't spontaneous - it was organised."

Manchester City Council said the city would be open for business as usual today with a clean-up planned at Piccadilly Gardens from 9am.

Councillor Pat Karney, the council's city centre spokesperson, said: "People in Manchester are very angry about what has happened in our city centre and it is time for us to stand together and say we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.

"We have a very clear message for the criminal thugs who tried to destroy our city centre. You will not beat us. You will not win. Manchester is open for business as usual.

"Our street cleaning crews have been out all night clearing the mess that has been left behind. That work continues today, with the people of Manchester joining us to help out.

"We've been overwhelmed by the offers of support we have had to get the city back on its feet, but we're not surprised. They are demonstrating the true Manchester spirit that this city is renowned the world over for and I look forward to them taking to the streets with us."

He said the council would ask the Government to assist affected businesses to ensure they would not be broken by the "criminal hoodlums".

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said the number of arrests for disorder in Manchester city centre and Salford had risen to 108.

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