‘Terrorists could not have done a better job destroying London’

STUNNED Londoners counted the cost of the pillaging and tried to clear up the mess yesterday as fears grew of what lay ahead for them last night.

In the poor eastern district of Woolwich, broken glass littered streets that were strewn with stolen goods, tailors’ dummies and other debris.

Simon Mills, manager of Birts & Son, jewellers and pawnbrokers, said he had lost goods worth £50,000-60,000.

“I don’t think terrorists could have done a better job than what they have done here.”

In Ealing, one resident said 150 hooded youths had walked down his road smashing car windows.

“It’s very sad to see. But kids have got no work, no future and the cuts have made it worse,” said Hackney electrician Anthony Burns, 39. “You watch. It’s only just begun.”

Hackney’s Mare Street, scene of serious disorder on Monday night, was largely back to normal by morning, with traffic flowing and the streets swept clean. A few shops had smashed windows boarded up, including a betting shop and a cafe.

The cafe’s owner, who declined to give his name, said he would lose as much as £10,000 because of the attack. “There’s no reason for it. It’s mindless, they attacked random shops. It’s sickening,” he said.

Roger Helmer, a member of the European Parliament, reflected many Londoners’ anger over the violence.

“Time to get tough. Bring in the Army. Shoot looters and arsonists on sight,” he tweeted.

Officials said the violence would not hurt preparations for the Olympics. The London 2012 Organising Committee was hosting an International Olympic Committee visit yesterday.

“Everything is going ahead as planned ... there is no change to the plans,” a committee spokeswoman said, adding that the Stratford Olympic park site near Tottenham was secure.

The Army will not want to become involved on the frontline of the riots but could help police with backroom operations, according to a soldier with nearly 30 years experience in the military.

Captain Doug Beattie said the Army could assist with planning operations, protecting key buildings like power stations or guarding prisoners in police stations.

This would free up police to concentrate on dealing with rioters on the streets.

Capt Beattie himself served in Northern Ireland, but said the Army would be very reluctant to take on a similar role in England.

“The military wouldn’t want to be called into this as they were in Northern Ireland — it would draw them into the whole civil disorder and once you’ve brought them in, it’s really hard to bring them out,” he said.

“The Army are great for planning, providing some of the infrastructure, and some of the ‘key point protection’ of power stations and places like that.

“The military need to be the people in the background. They need to be there to ensure that the infrastructure of the country does not get affected by this.

“If you look at Northern Ireland, once you’re dragged in, once you become the face that is stopping the people doing what they want to do, the people quickly turn on the Army and the Army becomes the focus of the abuse.”

Capt Beattie, 45, originally from Portadown in Northern Ireland, became a soldier in 1982 and is now in the Territorial Army.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery serving with the Royal Irish Regiment in Afghanistan in 2006-07, and has written two books about his experiences.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox