CROYDON COMMENTARY: On August 8 2011, the night that Croydon burned, photographer JAN PODSIADLY captured some of the scenes close to his home that he witnessed and terrified him, and here, 10 years on, recalls some of the events
Ten years ago I was in the middle of the Croydon riots.
It was purportedly a response to the controversial killing of Mark Duggan by the police.
West Croydon, where I lived, was the worst-hit place in any city in England. Few press images exist of the London Road. The enduring Croydon image was of the flames from Reeves Corner, but that was nowhere near the destruction of properties at the top of my road.
It wasn’t “protestors”. Cars parked in a side street opposite my house were loaded with loot by young men whose only interest was taking what they could.
According to one rioter, interviewed by academics years later, the only thing that made it all stop was when “The shops ran out of stuff.”
Shopkeepers on London Road who attempted to defend their stores were brushed aside and threatened.
Eight shops on London Road in West Croydon were totally destroyed and have never come back. Some of the buildings have still not been rebuilt.
Eventually, government recovery grants were paid to the council, but the money was diverted to more affluent South Croydon, although the destruction there was minimal by comparison.
Ministry of Justice figures show a total of 1,292 offenders were jailed for their part in the rioting that started in London and spread across the country.
But I am not aware that anyone has ever been charged with the destruction of the West Croydon buildings. Probably, they never will.
There was no official government inquiry after the riots, but there were reports by other bodies. Opportunism, social deprivation, discontent with the police and unemployment were all mentioned, but a single overwhelming cause for what happened over five days in August 2011 was not pinpointed.
Analyses following the riots found that police tactics were hampered by inadequate numbers, that they should sometimes have intervened more promptly and assertively, and that their intelligence was flawed.
All the reports praised the bravery of the officers on the frontline.
That night, I was living on the frontline.
I have never experienced such vile behaviour and greed as I witnessed that night and I hope that I never have to again.
I was in real fear for myself, my family and friends and for the possibility that my house might be torched.
I doubt that all the looters have been caught but I sincerely hope that those who were caught paid a heavy price for their actions.
Read more: Croydon riots 10 years on: Arson land put up for sale at £2m
Read more: Croydon riots 10 years on: A decade of missed opportunity
Read more: Croydon riots 10 years on: Risks greater now than in 2011
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