Arsonist jailed for London riots blaze

The burning building on August 8, 2011. Credit: PA

Gordon Thompson has been jailed for 11-and-a-half years after starting a massive fire that destroyed a 140-year-old furniture shop during last summer's riots.

The 34-year-old was jailed at the Old Bailey for causing the huge blaze at House of Reeves in Croydon, south London on August 8 last year.

The fire was so fierce it spread to buildings on the other side of the road, leaving residents there to flee for their lives and with their homes destroyed.

In total the Reeves family have lost an estimated £3 million and today a judge told Thompson the trauma they had suffered was "inestimable".

The blaze came at the height of last summer's unrest, and images of the enormous fire were some of the most dramatic of the riots.

Most memorable was the image of Monika Konczyk jumping from a window in her first floor flat, opposite the store, into the arms of firefighters below. Today she told ITV News she thought the sentence was "good".

The court heard Thompson had 20 previous convictions, including one for violent robbery, but said he became involved in the riots because he was depressed about his divorce.

Monika Konczyk leaping from her home after a blaze was started at nearby House of Reeves furniture store in August last year. Credit:

In a victim impact statement, Trevor Reeves said: "The total destruction of the site has been a bereavement to me, I just can't understand what I have done to make someone do this to me."

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow said of Mr Reeves's father Maurice: "He had worked in the shop since the age of 16. It was his life and, as he regarded it, his life had now been destroyed."

The shop had been in the family for generations, and Mr Reeves said: "I wonder with despair what my father and grandfather would make of the situation."

Thompson, of Waddon Road, went on a rampage through Croydon on August 8, looting Iceland and House of Fraser before turning on Reeves.

He brazenly posed for a photographer during the crime spree and ended up on the front page of a local newspaper.

Exclusive footage has emerged of Thompson looting on the streets of Croydon before he set the furniture store ablaze.

Thompson was given 11-and-a-half-years for arson, two years each for two counts of burglary, and three years for a third count of burglary, to run concurrently.

Judge Peter Thornton told him: "This day was a bad day for Croydon and the people of Croydon.

"Perhaps the most shocking event was that the House of Reeves was set alight and burned to the ground, putting lives at risk."

He said: "This is - was - a landmark store, a furniture store of the Reeves family business which had stood on the site for over 140 years, proudly giving its name to its location, Reeves Corner. You were about to bring all that to an end.

"This was a deliberate, wilful act of shocking, dangerous vandalism."

The judge continued: "The Reeves family lost their historic business, something they and generations before had lived and worked for all their lives. Their loss is priceless. The trauma they have suffered is inestimable."

The aftermath of the fire that destroyed the 140-year-old furniture store. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Thompson followed other looters into Reeves and stole a laptop, before deciding to set fire to a sofa in the shop window.

Thompson admitted starting the fire on February 24 - shortly after the start of his trial.

He had been filmed on mobile phones and by CCTV cameras as he attacked the shop.

Gordon Thompson captured looting during last summer's London riots. Credit: ITV News

The court heard that those who witnessed the enormous blaze were left traumatised.

Ms Konczyk, who lived in a building opposite Reeves, was too scared to go out and could not go to work without her sister accompanying her.

Others escaped with their young children and felt they were lucky to be alive.