Kids don’t play in street after shooting of Russian banker German Gorbuntsov
Mothers still don’t let their kids out to play in Byng Street after last week’s shooting of Russian banker German Gorbuntsov on the Isle of Dogs.
Seven days on, the street overshadowed by the towers of Canary Wharf has lost its ‘community’ feel.
There are no corner shops anyway, no newsagent or caf�, not even a greengrocer’s or barber’s, the stuff neighbourhoods in London’s East End are made of.
“Those bullets could have hit someone just passing by,” said mother-of-two Shafia Choudhury, 35. “It’s scary knowing all this happens on your doorstep.”
She lives in a social housing block next to the eight-storey luxury apartment complex at 11 Byng Street where the shooting took place and won’t go out at night. She arrives home from her job in Greenwich on the DLR and locks her front-door for the evening.
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Her 23-year-old neighbour on the same landing keeps her toddler son at home as well. She’s heard the rumours that usually following these incidents.
“Someone told me the gunman used a silencer,” she said. “You don’t expect that in your street.
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“It’s like a gangster movie—that’s what’s really worrying.”
Byng Street was developed originally from the Byng and Mellish estates in the 19th century when the India & Millwall Docks were being laid out and Thames shipping trade flourished.
The area fell into post-war decay after its destruction in the Blitz, until the Docklands regeneration began in the 1970s. Now it has Canary Wharf, the epicentre of London’s new financial powerhouse, for a neighbour where once the ships were berthed.
It has attracted developers because of its location, seven minutes’ from Canary Wharf station on the Jubilee Line extension, two minutes from South Quay on the DLR.
But it also attracts international figures who the families fear could be targeted by wouldbe assassins on their doorstep.
They found themselves caught up in a security cordon for two days and having to sign a police register to go in and out of their homes after last week’s shooting on their doorstep.
Their visitors weren’t allowed through, nor were car-owners able to drive out until Thursday, two days later.
A gunman fired through the glass pane of the entrance of No 11 Byng Street several times and Mr Gorbuntsov fell slumped in the lobby.
“The police wouldn’t let us out for hours,” complained a 23-year-old woman in the block next door. “We weren’t allowed visitors for two days while the cordon was up.
“You had to sign in and out whenever you left home or returned in the evening. It was a nightmare.”
Unemployed Bob Foster was at home when the shots were fired. It was later when he realised the street had been closed off.
“We were like prisoners inside the cordon,” he said. “I only found out when friends said they couldn’t get through the barriers.”
Sally, a 69-year-old pensioner in a maisonette opposite the shooting, heard a bang like a dustbin being emptied.
“It was as if a tin was hitting it on the side—you hear a bang like that,” she explains, clapping her hands. “We took no notice, then five minutes later I heard someone shouting.
“We could see from our bedroom window the wounded man in the lobby.”
The danger doesn’t worry this hardy Isle of Dogs resident. There was a shooting a few years ago with a man in a van at the same spot outside her home, she remembers.
“But I don’t like the idea that some moron from abroad can come into out street and shoot someone,” she added.
“Anyone could have been passing, ordinary work people who could have been wounded.”
Last Tuesday’s shooting is the talk over the garden fence. Sally’s next-door neighbour saw police and medics reviving the shot banker in the lobby of the apartment block.
“They brought him out on a stretcher,” the neighbour said. “We didn’t know there was a tycoon living there.”
One week on, police attention focuses on London’s taxi-drivers. Detectives know Mr Gorbuntsov took a cab home from Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station, half-a-hour before.
They want to trace the cabbie to see if he can shed light on what happened moments after he dropped off his passenger in Byng Street.
The 54-year-old exile from Moscow was hit several times by pistol fire by a suspect described as white, 6ft tall, slim build, and wearing a dark hooded top, who was seen running away from Byng Street through Bellamy Close towards Marsh Wall and into Canary Wharf.
Mr Gorbuntsov, who used to own banks in Russia and Moldova, was said by a Moscow newspaper to have been placed in a medically-induced coma and that he was under armed guard in hospital.
Scotland Yard confirmed on Monday that he was still in a critical condition, six days after being shot, but was stable.
The Russian press have reported that Mr Gorbuntsov’s lawyer had linked the attack to his role in a 2009 investigation into the attempted murder in Moscow of a banker involving dissident Chechnyans.
An appeal was put out the morning after the shooting for witnesses who may have been in Byng Street at 7.30pm on March 20 to call the incident room on 020-8733 4212, or dial 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111.
Meanwhile, the families continue living cheek-by-jowl in Byng Street with bankers and overseas short-stay visitors who occupy the luxury complex, but have little to do with them.
Some prefer to stay indoors—they don’t feel safe in Byng Street any more.