Monday, 8 August 2011

London | Second night of violence

Second night of violence in London

London riots
Fire fighters and riot police survey the area as fire rages through a building
in Tottenham in north London. Source: The Daily Telegraph

THOUSANDS of extra police officers were deployed across London on a second night of violence as fresh questions arose about the shooting of Mark Duggan, whose death led to the rioting in North London on Saturday.

Preliminary ballistics tests are understood to show that a police officer fired two bullets during the operation to arrest Mr Duggan last week.

One killed him and the other lodged itself in the radio of another policeman, who was lucky to escape injury.

Mr Duggan, 29, was armed at the time but it is not clear whether he opened fire or even drew his weapon when police stopped him last Thursday.

Extensive testing on Mr Duggan's gun, the police weapons and recovered bullets is continuing in an attempt to establish the sequence of events before his death.

The shooting was the catalyst for a night of rioting, arson and looting in Tottenham on Saturday. Scotland Yard, which was caught out by the intensity and scale of the violence, sought help from five other police forces yesterday in an effort to avoid copycat riots in other flashpoint areas.

Riot police were involved last night in running battles with about 200 youths in Enfield after shops were attacked. The overground railway station was closed as a precaution. Three police officers were injured during a disturbance in Brixton.

Earlier yesterday, the Hackney Carnival was cancelled amid fears of spreading violence.
Police sources admitted that the potential for trouble on the streets remained high while questions were unanswered about the death of Mr Duggan. The Independent Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed that a non-police firearm was found at the scene.

A protest by Mr Duggan's friends and family at Tottenham police station developed into a long night of rioting in which 26 police officers and three members of the public were injured; police cars, shops and a bus were set on fire, and widespread looting went unchecked.

Some witnesses claimed that trouble broke out after a 16-year-old girl clashed with officers.
David Lammy, the local Labour MP, condemned the violence but also warned that the family of Mr Duggan were feeling "totally isolated" and were desperate for information about how he met his death.

Writing in The Times today, Mr Lammy says: "The weekend's violence was not a race riot - it was an attack on the whole of the Tottenham community, organised on Twitter. That's why so many of the people arrested weren't from Tottenham. The grief of one family must never be hijacked to inflict grief on others."

Senior IPCC officials met family representatives yesterday, but, while the investigation is ongoing, it is unlikely that they were able to provide all the information the family would want.

In the absence of an authoritative account of what happened, rumour and conspiracy have flourished.

Friends of Mr Duggan have claimed that he was pulled from a minicab and "executed" by police; other accounts say that his gun was hidden in a sock and not used.

Police sources say that Mr Duggan was well known to them and emphasised that a specialist firearms unit was sent to arrest him because he was a suspected gunman.

The source who disclosed the findings of initial tests to The Times said: "The preliminary indications are that both bullets at the scene were fired by the police. The implications of that are very worrying."

Rachel Cerfontyne, the IPCC commissioner, moved to quash "inflammatory" and "inaccurate" claims. She said: "Speculation that Mark Duggan was 'assassinated' execution-style, involving a number of shots to the head, is categorically untrue. Following the formal identification of the body, Mr Duggan's family know that this is not the case".

She added: "The IPCC is investigating not only the actions of the officer firing the shots but also the planning, decision making and implementation of the police operation. Our lines of inquiry include the bullets fired and any firearms used and recovered."

Police believe that the family's plan for a peaceful vigil was hijacked by local gangs. As some of the rioters threw petrol bombs at police, there were suggestions that weaponry had been stockpiled.

Commander Adrian Hanstock admitted that the Metropolitan Police had not anticipated the levels of violence that have led to 55 arrests. He said: "There was no indication that the protest would deteriorate into the levels of criminal and violent disorder that we saw."

The Met, which lost its Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson over the phone-hacking scandal, faced criticism for its slow reaction.

Mr Hanstock said: "This is opportunistic criminality. Those individuals who stole, looted and rampaged through businesses took advantage of a time where police were dealing with some incidents that posed threats to life. Of course officers are going to focus on the fires or people in danger."

The Met has sought assistance from the Surrey, Thames Valley, Essex, Kent and City of London forces.


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