They burned down my home, I thought I’d die’
Tuesday 16 August 2011
Distraught Leni White is still coming to terms with losing her home and all her belongings after a jeering mob torched her London flat during last week’s fierce riots – as she cowered inside.
Terrifyingly, the 31 year old and her fiancé Rob Knight, a TV production engineer, found themselves helpless in their home after more than 100 yobs started an inferno in the grocery store below them last Monday night.
As they watched the mob loot the store in Ealing, west London, and throw flaming bottles of alcohol lit with rags at the wreckage, the horrified couple grabbed what they could and fled, fearing for their lives.
Now, all that’s left of their home is a blackened shell. They have lost everything – including irreplaceable mementos and photographs of Leni’s mother, who died seven years ago.
“All Mum’s jewellery, books, letters and photos were in there – I only managed to grab one photo of her before we fled. It feels like I’ve lost part of her,” Leni says. “I thought I might die that night. Those kids were like animals.”
The shocking riots that erupted in London spread throughout the UK last week. Trouble began on Saturday 6 August, after a peaceful protest by the family and friends of dad-of-four Mark Duggan, 29 – a suspected gangster shot by police in north London two days earlier.
A 120-strong group of his family and friends marched to the local police station to demand answers but, within hours, the crowd had doubled and were angry after a rumour spread that police had attacked a 16-year-old girl.
The Duggan family left as a mob started smashing and burning police cars. Rioting and looting soon spread and continued throughout the night.
By Monday night – when Leni’s flat was attacked – several areas of London were under siege, with mobs communicating through social networking sites to plan their next hit. Shops were looted, cars set on fire, bystanders were mugged or stripped of their clothes, and people’s homes were torched. Some looters even brazenly posted pictures of themselves posing with their swag on Facebook and Twitter.
Some areas saw gangs of kids as young as seven carrying armfuls of loot, and a 26-year-old man was shot and killed in his car in Croydon, south London.
In Birmingham, three men were killed in a hit-and-run after a car knocked them down as they tried to protect businesses in their community from rioters.
Trouble also broke out in Manchester, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich, Nottingham, Leicester, Liverpool and Bristol.
Leni first became aware something was going on in Ealing last Monday as she returned home at 9pm. She says: “I’d heard about trouble the night before, but thought it was over.”
But at 10pm, the couple heard shouting outside their flat.
“We looked out the window to see over 100 kids standing opposite. My heart was thumping,” says Leni, a disability support worker and musician.
“Suddenly they lunged at the shop below us and the building shook as they smashed the windows. They were laughing as they pulled out crates of alcohol. It was terrifying. Then they shouted: ‘Start a fire.’ I felt so scared and helpless.”
Leni dialled 999, but couldn’t get through, so, smelling smoke, the couple were forced to flee.
“We slung our laptops in a rucksack and I grabbed a photo of mum and a necklace my grandad made,” she says.
“We ran downstairs and out the back door where there was smoke from bins on fire. I’ve never run so fast.”
As the pair ran towards Ealing Common, a car pulled up and two youths shouted at them to “get out.” Leni says: “I wasn’t sure what they meant. One of them went to get something from the footwell and I thought he was going to pull out a gun and shoot us, but then they screeched off.”
The terrified couple finally found a hotel and booked a room.
“We turned on the TV and saw our road on the news – there were flames coming from the roof of our flat. I felt sick but I couldn’t cry – I just felt numb,” says Leni.
The pair returned home at 6am to find fire fighters putting out the last of the flames. Leni says: “The building was black – you could see the sky through the roof. I told the officer: ‘That’s my flat’ and he said: ‘It’s not good.’ I couldn’t take in what I was seeing. My first concern was my violin – Mum saved up to buy it for me when I was 12. I begged him to try to get it for me and he did. I’d left it by the back door in its case, so it was OK, but I don’t think much else will have survived. The building isn’t yet safe to enter so we’ll have to wait to go back.”
The couple are now staying with family in Somerset and don’t know when they’ll return to London.
“We don’t know if anything’s left,” says Leni. “We’re insured for £30,000. Our lives have been devastated. I don’t know what point these kids were proving. They’ve hurt innocent people – all for some free booze or a pair of trainers.
“Our lives are in tatters – though I’ve seen a tremendous sense of community spirit. So many people have offered me clothes and money. I’m gutted, but I want these kids to know they haven’t destroyed everything.”
By Emily Retter
Posted by pipi
RE: They burned down my home, I thought I’d die’
THIS IS SO SAD BUT WHAT GOES AROUND WILL COME AROUND
Posted 17/01/2013 13:34:36