Monday 18 December 2017

Tales of terror as Tottenham residents turn into refugees


Andrew Gilligan and Heidi Blake in London

CARRYING emergency blankets and food, left with only the clothes on their backs, they looked like refugees.

But they were in their own country, less than a mile from what had been their own homes. These were the law-abiding members of Tottenham's real community, who, having lost everything, streamed all afternoon to the housing office in the Seven Sisters Road.

"We had 30 seconds to get out," said Chris, a mature student who lived above Carpet Right, which was torched just after 2am on Sunday. "It becomes a question of, what do you grab? In our case, it was our two cats."

From their top-floor balcony, Chris and his girlfriend, who are unwilling to give their full names, had watched the riot coming towards them down the Tottenham High Road.

"The flames were getting closer and closer, and we were just thinking: this is unbelievable. I was saying, 'Please don't set fire to the building, please don't'. But then they were inside, and within half a minute it was on fire," said Chris.

"My girlfriend was standing on the balcony, panicking. I grabbed her, and we ran through the smoke. We tried the fire exit stairwell. But it was pitch black. You couldn't see 15cm in front of your face. We came back up, crossed over, and went down the main stairwell. Where were the police? Where was the fire service? It felt like we were left there to die."

Rosie Pertusa, also a resident of the Carpet Right building, wept as she described the moment residents fled for their lives.

She told the BBC: "There was another neighbour trying to get out of the building. We were just in such a panic.

"And then we got outside, and then I saw the flames going up the building. It was just black smoke coming billowing down from the corner of the Carpet Right. Ten minutes longer in that building, we would have been dead.

"What makes me utterly sick to the bone is, as we were trying to get out of that building alive, some stupid, selfish man -- white guy, blond hair -- was coming out. He'd obviously looted Carpet Right. People were coming out with rugs over their shoulders, laughing."

Lynn Radose, a lecturer, lived in the same block. "It was a wave. The police were just pushing them up the High Road," she said.

"We took our phones, we took our passports and that was it.

"These are my sister-in-law's clothes that I'm wearing. My husband is still in what he wore on the night of the riot. He wouldn't let me take a bag. He said it was so wild out there that we would get mugged.


"One of my neighbours had a baby. The rioters started banging on her door," she said.

"When she opened it, they took the baby away. She was terrified. They didn't hurt the baby, but she didn't get it back for more than an hour."

Stephen Seemanpillai, his wife Heli and their 10-month-old daughter Jenny fled their flat above the Post Office after smoke and flames reached inside.

"We went to our car," he said. "We got stopped by the rioters, they were hitting us with bottles. I put my hands out. I begged them. I said: 'please, I have a baby'. And they went away."

John Frain barricaded himself into his pub, The Victoria, with beer barrels and planks of wood when a mob of around 40 masked youths began kicking the doors and smashing the windows.

But he was forced out of the building with his wife Margaret when the gang threatened to firebomb the property and burn them to death inside. They then ransacked the pub.

"When we came out they pelted us with missiles. They are animals," said Mr Frain. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

Irish Independent

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