I lost my son in the 2011 London riots… it changed my life forever

IT was a stark image of the carnage that had gripped Britain – a 150-year-old family business engulfed in flames.

Looter Gordon Thompson — just one of the rioters causing mayhem across the country ten years ago — had set fire to furniture store House of Reeves.

The blaze in Croydon, South London, swept to flats across the street, forcing Polish shop assistant Monika Konczyk, then 32, to jump for her life from her first-floor home.

The spark for the six days of ­anarchy was the police shooting of suspected gun runner Mark Duggan on August 4, 2011, in North London.

Two days later, after his family and friends had received no explanation for the 29-year-old’s death, a peaceful protest took place outside Tottenham police station.

As that hot Saturday night wore on, tempers flared, false rumours spread like wildfire and rioting and looting broke out across the capital.

Buses were set alight, thieves fought over their bounty, five people died and the police appeared to lose control.

Gangs organised raids via BlackBerry messenger and social media.

In Brixton, South London, all the footwear and clothes shops were ransacked, yet the bookseller Waterstones remained unscathed.

By Monday evening the anarchy had spread to other parts of South London, where the rabid desire for destruction struck House of Reeves.

The business occupied two adjacent buildings.

Alerted by a neighbour, co-owner Trevor Reeves, 66, arrived at the scene to see one half of his family’s store alight.

‘People were in tears’

Standing inside the part of the shop that survived, Trevor says: “I was completely dumbstruck when I saw the fire. My dad had come back from his wedding anniversary and there was his shop up in flames.

“If the fire service hadn’t stood between the buildings hosing ours down then this would have gone up as well.”

He adds: “It’s lucky no one died.”

The determination of the Reeves family not to be cowed by the chaos captured the imagination of the nation.

The very next day they delivered furniture which had been kept — undamaged — in their van.

But the shops were both out of action. One had to be demolished and the other had all its windows broken.

The store was so well-known in the local area that the street it stood on was named Reeves Corner.

The community, Trevor’s employees and his father Maurice, who died in 2019 aged 88, rallied together.

Trevor says: “People were outside in tears because it is such a well-known landmark.

“Everyone rallied round. We have a good reputation in the area. There was a contrast between this solid family business with proper standards and these reprobates tearing everything up.”

Soon the chaos spread to Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham.

Innocent citizens tried to help each other escape the mass mayhem and muggers causing carnage.

In Birmingham, Tariq Jahan witnessed three young men hit by a car while they were trying to protect local businesses.

He immediately went to offer first aid, but the discovery that confronted him changed his life forever.

The man lying close to death on the ground was his 21-year-old son Haroon.

Tariq tells The Sun: “There comes a moment that changes everyone. Mine was the time I turned over the body of my son, saw his face and ­realised that I was possibly going to lose him.”

His efforts to save the lives of his son and two of Haroon’s friends ultimately failed.

But Tariq, 56, probably saved others from a similar fate by rising above the angry throng to call for peace.

Hours later, he told a gathering: “We all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this?

“Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home.”

But Tariq’s son was not the last person to lose his life.

That was 68-year-old hero Richard Mannington Bowes, who died in hospital on August 11 three days after being punched to the ground by 16-year-old looter Darrell Desuze.

Richard had been trying to put out a fire in a bin near his home in Ealing, West London, when he was attacked.

His sister Anne Wilderspin, 83, of Evesham, Worcs, does not want his actions to be forgotten.

The mum-of-three said: “I think it is important for people to remember my brother ten years on.

“We have tried to move on but I’m still very proud of him.

“I think that was his nature. He was just trying to help, and it cost him his life.”

Anne decided to forgive Desuze, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for eight years.

She revealed to The Sun: “The police gave me the opportunity to meet his killer. The Christian in me wanted to do that and we had the chance to meet him in prison.

“I told him that I forgave him. He didn’t seem particularly contrite during that meeting but he did seem relieved.”

Arsonist Thompson was jailed for 11 and a half years for his attack and is now out of prison.

But Tariq did not see anyone jailed for the death of his son.

Eight men were charged with murder but were acquitted following a trial in 2012.

‘Anger and heartache’

The judge questioned the actions of the police investigating the case — and Tariq wants a public inquiry into what happened.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct found that officers had mishandled the murder investigation.

Lorry driver Tariq says: “I still want an inquiry, but there are slim to no chances of getting one.”

Despite that frustration, he holds no grudge against the man whose car hit his son.

He explains: “I never got to speak to him but now, from the bottom of my heart, I forgive him. He’s got to get on with his life and deal with his demons.

“I need to forgive to get over my own pain. There is no way I can keep the anger and heartache inside.”

Tariq has channelled his energy into a charity named after his son.

The Haroon Tariq Jahan Foundation provides support both for people in Birmingham and in conflict zones overseas.

He says: “I work in the charity sector, which helps me and my family get over our loss when we see the plight of people out there who have had a worse situation than we have — people who have lost their entire family.”

Both Trevor and Tariq know that people make mistakes.

Edwin Reeves — Trevor’s great-great grandfather who founded the shop in 1867 — had himself spent six months in prison for rioting.

Trevor says Edwin “got caught up” in a Guy Fawkes night rampage in Guildford, Surrey, three years before heading to Croydon.

And Tariq admits he once had an aggressive streak.

He says: “When I was a young I used to get into fights and I used to think that would resolve everything.”

The two men also fear that tensions within the community could quickly escalate again.

Trevor says that for a year after his store burned down, people showed concern for one another.

But once the “bad people” got out of prison, the mood gradually soured.

Tariq says: “It would only take a wrong step to have the same situation spiralling all over again.”

‘It could happen all over again’

By John O’Connor, ex-Flying Squad commander

MASS riots could ­happen again any time in Britain – and we won’t be prepared for them.

There is no contingency plan in place which covers the ­recurrence of the events of a decade ago.

Back then looters used BlackBerry messenger to co-ordinate attacks on businesses.

Now end-to-end encrypted messaging apps are even more sophisticated and widespread, making enforcement very difficult.

We need a central command for communicating intelligence between forces, and nationwide policies for dealing with disorder.

Sadly, at the moment the police don’t have the manpower to intercept and stop another riot spreading across the country.

There is also a lot of dissatisfaction in the community, with a lack of trust in the integrity of the police force.

Much of the criticism is unfair.

The police need to become more proactive, going undercover to tackle organised public disorder before it ­escalates.

That, though, risks police chiefs being accused of secret ­policing.

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