8/8 One Year On: Another Inside Croydon reader, JAN PODSIADLY, recalls what happened on his street off London Road 12 months ago
I live in West Croydon just by the London Road and I found it very uncomfortable to be reminded of what was one of the most terrifying nights of my life. The only positive is that I and my family came out unscathed.
However what we witnessed was horrifying and deplorable. The London Road was acclaimed as the worst hit part of Croydon which was the worst hit town in England.
On the day, a friend of my son arrived just after 6pm and told us that West Croydon station had just closed as he left it and there were police and youths milling around. I went to the top of the road with my son and his friend and could see the line of police down at North End, and people in the street.
We took it upon ourselves to flag down traffic and advise turning off before being caught up in whatever was brewing up. Only one car with four youths in it declined our advice, asking if we were going to stop them. After a while, people, mainly youths, started coming past us laden with goods which we presumed were looted from shops.
One youth on a motor scooter coming from North End swerved at me as he came past. We realised that our presence was not appreciated by the gathering youths so we returned home.
For the next few hours we watched on TV and made some forays to the London Road to try to understand our position. I became more concerned with the safety of my house and family, with groups of masked youths coming up the road towards the London Road.
My son continued scouting the top of the road for police together with a neighbour. On one such excursion he assisted the wife and children of a storekeeper out of their shop while the storekeeper was hopelessly trying to defend his store from looters. My son gave his jumper to the storekeeper who had is shirt ripped by the callous individuals who thought they could take what they wanted, and did.
We heard that the pawnbrokers, Lidl and Fitness First had all been set alight and at some point the Royal Mansions were also torched as were cars in the street. The BBC crew had already pulled out of the area for fear of their own safety.
The Reeve’s Corner fire became the abiding memory of that night while the real devastation, destruction and sheer wanton behaviour took place in West Croydon. Cars full of young men, not just youths, appeared and loaded them up and set off for more. More groups of masked youths came past and one guy was even looking over the front walls saying that he wanted a brick.
You can imagine the tension felt by everyone in the street. I don’t think that anyone slept much that night. About 4am two women with about seven young children, toddlers and in prams, came down the street with arms full of items that they dropped and picked up and dropped and picked up again as the meandered from side to side. It was grotesque.
The following day I was too highly strung to even consider going to work. There was no sign that the police had got anything under control and the London Road was still being hosed down (that went on for about two weeks). I felt utterly shaken and while I have a forgiving nature, to those who say they were just drawn into the moment I find it impossible not to recommend the harshest penalties for anyone who took part in the riots, looting and destruction.
Those who torched the London Road are to date still free and I don’t think that there is any likelihood of them being caught. West Croydon has been decimated, livelihoods totally lost and homes burnt out.
Where is the justice?
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