East End gets back to normal after mobs smash store windows and loot a designer store

Traders in the heart of London’s East End have been getting back to normal after a night of disturbances in Bethnal Green, Bow and Poplar.

They had been advised to close early last night by police when gangs of youths began gathering in Bethnal Green Road and Roman Road.

The worst looting was the designer store Zee & Co which was broken into by a mob in Roman Road which smashed its way through the steel security door and emptied the entire stock. Much of the designer goods such as jeans and shoes sell at �500.

All that was left was a handful of bags and overturned shelves and a manakin dummy.

Two police officers were on guard outside this morning, waiting for workmen to board up the premises.

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A woman approached them and reported seeing a car draw up last night and the driver casually loading up clothes—she managed to get the car-registration and handed it to one of the officers.

Two doors along, the plate glass window of Garry’s fish-bar was smashed. It was boarded up—leaving Tom Hunkar, the tenant living in the flat above, unable to gat back onto his home when he returned this morning from his night-shift at an all-night kebab shop in Dalston—the scene of more serious rioting.

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A mile to the west, shops and stores along Bethnal Green Road were sweeping up the shattered glass. The Halifax bank was trashed, along with Specsavers and The Money Store. Barclays bank also had its window cracked, but the mob failed to get in.

Police had advised traders to shut up shop early and make for safety.

Newsagent Zeeshan Gul didn’t quite make it and was trapped in his Jumila store.

“The mob was trying to get in,” he said. “The youths all wore hoods and shouted through the door to open up, but I kept closed.

“I was scared—I thought they were trying to kill me.”

Police eventually came and chased the youths off, he recalled.

“They told me they could do nothing,” Zeeshan added. “They have the power to deal with them, but didn’t do anything. I don’t understand why the police didn’t act—they just told me to shut the store and get out.”

Further along, Arafurth Hussain was trapped in his Quick Fit motor repair workshop.

He said: “I couldn’t get out—the police told me to put the shutters down and stay inside.”

The Spitalfields Crypt charity shop next door was also targeted when the mob stole bags of clothing left outside.

Refuse bins were also set alight on the road, damaging the tarmac surface.

Food store owner Harry Iftikhar Ul Hag, who normally keeps open till midnight, had to close at 6pm on police advice. Gangs tried to get into his store at 1.30am, but failed.

Assistant optician Abdulkla Pelario, 24, arrived for work at Specsavers to find the front glass door shattered.

“I feel shocked seeing this,” he said. “I had no idea we would be targeted.

“I don’t know why they picked on us—this is just mindless vandalism.”

Police cars were chasing youths on bikes along Bethnal Green Road, but the gangs split up, according to eye witness Justine O’Donnovan, 29.

“They were chasing 30 youths, some as young as 14,” she said.

“I was here when the 7/7 suicide bombers hit the Underground. I never thought of London like this—and we’ve got the Olympics next year.

“But we residents in Bethnal Green will clear up this mess and just carry on.”

Veolia street cleansing contractors who normally operate along Bethnal Green Road at night were advised by Tower Hamlets council to stay away until this morning. Crews arrived at 6am to start the big clean up.

Operations manager Tony Palladino said: “This is a sad reflection on life when the mob takes to the street as an excuse to loot and vandalise.”

Passengers getting off the DLR at All Saint’s in Poplar’s East India Dock Road were confronted by a gang of 12 youths hurling bricks and bottles at the news vendor in the kiosk by the entrance.

One passenger, Jane Wicks, 52, said: “The gang was intent on causing disturbance. I had to walk through them—I was terrified.”

But the stores were opening for business again by 7am as the community was getting back to normal after a night of shock and disbelief.

(Pictures: Mike Brooke)

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