London riots: Maurice Reeves speaks of pain at arson by Gordon Thompson

13:59 25 February 2012

Reeves gutted by blaze

Reeves gutted by blaze

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The owner of a family-run furniture shop today said parts of him “had died” after a blaze razed the business to the ground during the riots last summer.

Maurice Reeves spoke outside the Old Bailey after Gordon Thompson, 33, admitted starting the fire that destroyed 144-year-old House of Reeves.

Images of the inferno that ripped through the shop in Croydon, south London, and spread to buildings on the other side of the road were some of the most dramatic from last year’s unrest, on August 8.

Mr Reeves said the blaze was so traumatic, “parts of me have died”.

“It’s difficult to describe because it’s been such a traumatic time for us. The building’s been there all my life. I worked in there every day and when I go into work now the building’s not there.

“You can appreciate it’s still sinking in and today brings all the memories back.”

He added: “It’s with tears in my eyes when I think about it.”

Thompson pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in August last year.

He also admitted one count of burglary for stealing a laptop from the shop on the same night.

Thompson’s trial for starting the blaze had started at the Old Bailey earlier this week, but at the end of the prosecution opening he decided to admit certain charges.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court he had consulted members of the Reeves family about accepting the guilty pleas.

Thompson had already admitted burglary of two shops in Croydon - Iceland and House of Fraser - on the same evening.

Jurors were ordered to find him not guilty of two other charges of violent disorder and arson with intent to endanger life.

Judge Peter Thornton QC warned that Thompson will face “a long sentence of imprisonment”.

The court had already heard that Thompson, of Waddon Road, Croydon, “ran riot through the streets” that day.

When he saw other rioters smashing the front window of Reeves, he climbed into the shop to steal a laptop, and after he left, decided to burn it down.

Mr Glasgow said: “On leaving the store, he asked another of the rioters for a lighter and, as soon as he was given one, went back to the shop and set fire to a sofa inside the shattered window.

“The ensuing fire razed the building to the ground. Such was the ferocity of the blaze that embers and heat from the flames set fire to property on the other side of the road and numerous residents were forced to flee their homes for their lives.

“Indeed one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below.”

A photographer captured a dramatic image of Monika Konczyk as she hurled herself from the building to escape the fire.

Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.

After the plea Mr Reeves’ son Trevor said: “It’s a momentous day for everybody in Croydon to know that these people can be apprehended.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London news

Friday, September 4, 2015
Richard Powell was seriously injured in a fight at London Victoria station and died a few days later (Picture: BTP)

A 39-year-old man has died after sustaining serious head wounds in a vicious fight inside London Victoria station.

Friday, September 4, 2015
Insulting comments sent to prospective deputy Labour party leader Stella Creasy included 'you look like an alien egg' (Picture: YouTube)

‘She looks like she’s had more c**ks than hot dinners’ is just one of the charming emails Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy has received during her campaign to become deputy Labour leader. Watch her read them out to camera here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015
Police want to speak to this man (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

Detectives want to speak to this man after a woman was sexually assaulted as she waited for a bus on Wick Lane - at 1.30pm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015
A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. Picture: AP Photo/DHA/PA Images

A tweet from the account of Wimbledon UKIP candidate Peter Bucklitsch caused outrage today by stating Aylan Kurdi ‘died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe’.

Thursday, September 3, 2015
Natalia Czekaj was stabbed seven times

A plumber who sawed off his girlfriend’s head with a breadknife in north London has managed to escape a murder trial - because he is an alcoholic.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Happy viewing!

MyOffers are giving you that chance to win an amazing Samsung 55” Curve HD TV.

Read more
Get ready to take in the beautiful sights of London from above!

Are you always seeking unique ways to see your favourite city? This one is for you.

Read more
Shop till you drop!

Home to top name brands at great prices, TK Maxx is more like a treasure hunt than a shop. Perfect for grabbing a bargain or some hidden gems, you arm yourself with a trolley and go wild.

Read more