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Newspaper helps bring riots arsonist to justice

The man responsible for torching a family furniture store in what became an iconic image of the 2011 summer riots has been brought to justice  – thanks to a weekly newspaper.

The Croydon Advertiser featured a front page story with an appeal to help track down Gordon Thompson, who had been caught on camera looting by reporter Gareth Davies and a freelance photographer on 8 August.

It later transpired that he was in fact the arsonist who had destroyed Croydon’s House of Reeves store.

Thompson, 33, who was arrested after being recognised by a reader, stood trial last week at the Old Bailey, where on Friday morning he changed his plea to guilty. He now faces a lengthy jail term when he is sentenced in April.

Editor Glenn Ebrey said: “When we ran this picture as the central image of our post-riots splash, little did we know that this was the man responsible for one of the most high-profile and shocking of all the riot crimes.

The front page of the Advertiser in August

“The most disgraceful thing about this whole episode is how Thompson brazenly denied setting fire to the store and, in the process, wasted months of court time, despite the obvious and compelling weight of evidence against him

“It is very satisfying to know that Gareth’s efforts have helped bring this man to justice and given some closure to the Reeves family, who saw their business destroyed by one man’s callous act.”

The court heard that Thompson set fire to a sofa in the shop which led to an inferno within minutes.

He admitted burglary and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and will be sentenced on 11 April.

Thompson had earlier admitted looting House of Fraser and Iceland in Croydon town centre, having been caught in the act by the Advertiser.