An off-duty police officer who confronted rioting youths and tried to stop them from looting while wearing no protective equipment has been hailed a hero.

Pc Andy Hewlett, who works as a Safer Schools Officer in Lambeth, was returning to his home in Croydon with his partner when they saw the Argos store on Church Street was being looted.

The 41-year-old called 999 but was told no-one was available, so decided to guard the store himself, with the help of his partner who is not a police officer.

Pc Hewlett who has been a police officer for 18 years and served with the Royal Signals in the first Gulf war, blocked the back door to Argos and challenged looters trying to enter the building, while his partner Michael Bray, 52, took pictures of passing looters which were given to police.

He said: "I was so angry. This is my community, where I live, I was quite incensed this was happening where I lived, it spurred me into action.

"I verbally and physically challenged the rioters and some dropped what they had. When I looked up and saw Reeves in flames I again dialled 999 and was advised to get out, but I decided to stay as long as I could."

Pc Hewlett and Mr Bray were outside the shop for about 90 minutes, but were forced to leave when youths started throwing stones at them.

Neither man was injured, but PC Hewlett said although the decision to stay at the scene had been jointly made, he had been mindful of his partner's safety.

He denied he was a hero, but said: "What happened that night was out and out criminality. If I was in the same situation, I would do the same thing again."