Riots thief changes his plea to admit setting fire to family furniture store

The fire near Reeves Corner, Croydon, south London, during a third night of unrest in the capital. Gordon Thompson today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed the family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.
The fire near Reeves Corner, Croydon, south London, during a third night of unrest in the capital. Gordon Thompson today admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed the family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.
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A man yesterday admitted starting a massive fire which destroyed a family-run furniture shop during the riots last year.

Gordon Thompson, 33, pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London in August last year.

The shop had been on the site since 1867, before it was razed to the ground by the fire.

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

Thompson’s trial for starting the blaze – which was so fierce that buildings on the opposite side of the road caught fire – started at the Old Bailey earlier this week.

However, at the end of the prosecution’s opening statements he decided to admit certain charges.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow told the court that he had consulted with 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 he 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.

He added: “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.”

Thompson will be sentenced on April 11.