'My family's been in business for 140 years, now we have nothing'9 Aug 2011
A family who watched their furniture business burn to the ground in an inferno today said the rioters had "destroyed" their lives.
House of Reeves in West Croydon, which had been in the family for five generations, was left a gutted ruin after a 100-strong mob set buildings alight.
Owner Trevor Reeves said: "Words fail me. It's just gone. It's five generations. My father is distraught at the moment. It's just mindless thuggery."
His brother Graham added: "Our lives are destroyed, it will probably be someone else next week. It's horrendous, 35 years I have been down here."
He said the business was established in 1867, but he now had "nothing", adding: "Everything is just gone, we have just got nothing left. I was in the Brixton riots but this is worse."
Firefighters in Croydon were still struggling to extinguish fires lit by rioters today which forced a woman to make a desperate leap from a burning building.
The woman was seen jumping to safety as her flat above a chemist in Church Street turned into an inferno last night.
She fell into the arms of two waiting fire officers below and is believed to be receiving treatment at St George's Hospital.
Scotland Yard has launched a manhunt to find the rioters responsible for destroying homes and businesses during last night's raids. Gangs of about 100, aged between 15 to 25, looted at will and set fire to buildings. Officers started collecting CCTV footage from Croydon council in the early hours of this morning.
Extra staff have been drafted by the council to collate and log hours of CCTV footage in a bid to identify the gangs of thugs who terrorised the community after coordinating their attacks using Twitter and BlackBerry messages. Residents evacuated from flats in London Road watched helplessly as all their possessions went up in flames. Firemen, who tried to put out the blaze, were initially pushed back by gangs of teenage thugs who pelted them with bricks.
The fire began after more than 100 youths, dressed in hoodies and with their faces covered descended on the Church Street area near West Croydon station at about 8pm. With no police in sight, they began by setting alight to a double-decker bus before attacking the nearby furniture store.
Violence spread to Thornton Heath and Norbury.
Residents and shopkeepers today told of fears that there would be further violence. Paul Buckmaster, 28, said: "What's to stop them coming back again? They haven't been shown by police that this isn't on. It could be in daylight next time. The fact that they are coming off the trains shows that they are moving round in a co-ordinated way contacting each other on the BlackBerrys.
"It's in the air. People are scared. The Army should be called in as the police can't handle it. Are there even enough police for this?" A 26-year-old man found by police with gunshot wounds in a car in Warrington Road was today in a serious condition in a south London hospital. Two others, believed to be in their late twenties, were arrested at the scene for handling stolen goods.
Scotland Yard said the victim was not a police officer and was not shot by police. The case is being investigated by Operation Trident. More than a dozen people have been arrested in Croydon so far.
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell said: "I'm sickened to see this happening in my town. My first instinct is sympathy for the businesses and residents who have been directly affected by what's happened."
Mike Fisher, leader of Croydon council, said: "I am disgusted by the mindless hooliganism displayed by the criminal element that has come to Croydon."