A man has pleaded guilty to starting the fire which destroyed the 144-year old Reeves furniture shop during last summer’s riots.
Gordon Thompson, 33, today dramatically changed his plea during a trial at the Old Bailey after “overwhelming evidence” against him was played out in court.
The court had previously heard that on August 8, Thompson told another man “it was me”, while walking away from the burning furniture store.
The painter and decorator living on Waddon Road looted a laptop from the east Croydon furniture store before using a lighter to set fire to a sofa in the window display.
The flames were so ferocious that they spread to buildings on the opposite side of the road.
One woman, Monika Konczyk, who lived opposite the burning furniture store, was forced to jump from her window to escape the blaze.
The image of Konczyk falling towards people’s outstretched hands against the backdrop of flames became the internationally seen icon of the London Riots-but her role was not just in front of the camera.
The court heard yesterday how when standing in the entrance to her building she saw a man run into a shop and place something square on a piece of furniture, and began filming the incident on her phone
CCTV also captured Thompson at Reeves Corner where he ripped a glass pane from its frame and entered the shop and, after asking for a lighter, set fire to a sofa.
Thompson had been previously caught on CCTV entering the House of Fraser store and reemerging five minutes later with armfuls of stolen goods.
Opening the case for the prosecution yesterday, Oliver Glasgow told the jurors that Thompson “played a leading part in the disorder that took place in Croydon that night.”
The jury heard how Thompson vandalised property, smashed shop windows and looted stores of their contents, before setting fire to the family furniture shop.
Thompson, father of two, had admitted to burglary of two Croydon shops- Iceland and House of Fraser- but previously denied any involvement in arson attacks on Reeves furniture store.
Thompson was arrested on 14 August by a local police officer who recognised him. He was interviewed on five occasions but refused to comment.
It was at the end of today’s prosecution when Thompson admitted to charges of arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Judge Peter Thornton QC said Thompson would receive a lengthy sentence that will be decided on 11 April.
In an interview last November, 94-year-old furniture shop owner Maurice Reeves told EastLondonLines how he watched his family business of five generations burn to the ground from his living room. The burnt-out store has since been demolished, but the company – which has been in the Reeves family for five generations – is still trading from refurbished premises across the street.
Maurice and his son Trevor Reeves were at court today to see Thompson change his plea.
Trevor Reeves told EastLondonlines: “We are very happy that the prosecution and police have brought about the change of plea. The fact that it took six months to happen is indicative of the kind of people involved in the riots. We are going to carry on running our business in the same way we have been for five generations- if not better.”
Trevor Reeves added that they will be attending the sentence in April.