4:30pm Wednesday 11th April 2012
By Hannah Williamson
The looter who set the fire to a 150-year-old furniture store destroyed in the Croydon riots has been jailed for 11-and-a-half-years.
Gordon Thompson, 34, used a lighter to set fire to a sofa cushion on display in the House of Reeves store last August, causing £3 million worth of damage.
The dad-of-two had initially denied setting fire to the family run store, but changed his plea two days into his trial in February.
The blaze was so fierce it spread to properties on the opposite side of Reeves Corner, causing residents to flee their homes.
Monika Konczyk was forced to jump to safety from her flat window, with a dramatic photograph becoming one of the riots most iconic images.
The court heard Miss Konczyk said in a victim impact statement she was no longer the happy, bubbly person she once was and her experience had changed her as a person.
Hours before starting the blaze Thompson had gone on a looting spree, ransacking Iceland and the House of Fraser store in Centrale.
In mitigation Adam Davis QC, for Thompson, said the defendant was struggling with his divorce and had been unable to find full time work.
Mr Davis described Thompson as a persistent offender rather than a dangerous offender and said he had not intended his actions to cause the damage it did.
He said: "He wanted me on his behalf, to apologise to all those involved and in particular the Reeves family for what happened as a result of his reckless actions."
An aerial shot of Reeves Corner on the night
Sentencing Thompson, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, said: "This is-was- a landmark store, a furniture store of the Reeves family business which had stood on that site for over 140 years, proudly giving its name to its location, Reeves Corner.
"You were about to bring all that to an end.
"The fire was devastating as you must have realised to some extent it would be, but the real cost was in human and emotional terms.
"The Reeves family lost their historic business, something they and generations before them, had lived and worked all their lives.
"Their loss was priceless, the trauma they have suffered is inestimable."
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