High alert in wake of looting and fire attacks

Leeds West Indian Carnival chairman Arthur France looks through a broken window at the carnival centre in Chapeltown, Leeds.
Leeds West Indian Carnival chairman Arthur France looks through a broken window at the carnival centre in Chapeltown, Leeds.
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STORE owners and police were on high alert in parts of Yorkshire after a night of sporadic disorder that included “copycat” looting and arson attacks on buildings.

Attempts were made to burn down a Leeds cultural centre and in Huddersfield looters smashed their way into an Asda supermarket in order to steal televisions, which they then abandoned in the car park.

Two police officers who were at the Bradford Road Asda store on Tuesday night were slightly injured when a gang of youths stoned their car.

Five Huddersfield men, aged 17 to 23, were arrested for burglary and criminal damage.

A police chief said youths were copying what they had seen happening in other English cities.

Chief Superintendent John Robins said: “There have been a number of incidents of localised disorder in communities around Huddersfield, but thankfully we have not had the serious urban disorder that other parts of the country have seen.

“It is clear that local youths were trying to copy the disorder and theft seen in other parts of the country, but thankfully the actions of brave police officers last night prevented this.”

Asda shoppers reacted with disgust to the looting, which saw six large windows smashed.

Retired couple Keith and Margaret Berry, from Elland, near Halifax, called on the police and Government to get tough.

Mr Berry, surveying the damaged Asda store, said: “This is absolutely disgusting. They ought to come down hard and consider using rubber bullets.”

Mrs Berry added: “They should get the water cannon out. They took away discipline years ago and this is what we have.”

A witness to the Asda violence said about 20 youths approached the store – which had closed early Tuesday night on police advice – and threw bricks at the windows.

Police disputed the numbers, saying only four youths were involved.

The 24-hour store closed early again last night on police advice.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning saw five other incidents of disorder across Huddersfield.

At 10pm windows were smashed at Deighton and Sheepridge Working Men’s Club and a cash machine stolen by a group of youths. A 26-year-old man suffered a leg injury.

Half an hour later youths set fire to wheelie bins at Harpe Inge and just before 1am a group of masked youths broke into the Chestnut Centre, Deighton, causing damage and taking a cash machine. Just after 1am would-be arsonists tried to set fire to United Carpets on Union Street.

The youths were branded “mindless hooligans” by Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan, who added: “Every community has a small element of criminals and this was that criminal element.

“This morning when I was out, I was talking to local residents who are long-established members of the community and are angered and shocked by it.”

Coun Khan urged the public to be vigilant and report incidents to the police.

“Also ask pertinent questions,” he said. “Find out where your brothers, sisters, sons and daughters are and put pressure on them not to participate in criminal activities which could result in prison sentences.”

Disorder was reported on Tuesday night in Chapeltown, Leeds, which also saw violence on Monday night.

Community members were dismayed when youths tried to burn down the Leeds West Indian Carnival Arts and Cultural Centre.

Carnival co-ordinator Ian Charles said seven windows were smashed at about midnight and burning materials thrown inside. Neighbours threw water through the windows to douse the flames.

Mr Charles said: “These people are silly as there is no reason whatsoever for this. It is disheartening and makes me mad.”

Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield, said there would be a “strong visible police presence in the city overnight” as a precaution.

“Those planning anything should be warned that the police will arrest anyone creating a disturbance or causing public disorder.”

Two men aged 20 and 25 were being questioned by police last night over the shooting of a 34-year-old man in Savile Place, Chapeltown, on Monday.

The victim remained in a critical condition in hospital. Detectives have appealed for more witnesses to the incident to come forward.