London Riots: St John’s Wood cafe rampage thugs finally jailed for 43 years

Le Bijou was targeted by up to 50 rioters, the court heard

Le Bijou was targeted by up to 50 rioters, the court heard - Credit: Archant

A gang of thugs who rampaged through St John’s Wood during the London riots of 2011, trying to set fire to one cafe and terrifying customers at a second with knives and smashed bottles, have been jailed for more than 40 years.

Customers at the Rym Cafe were also threatened

Customers at the Rym Cafe were also threatened - Credit: Archant

The 13 defendants, all local and aged between 18 and 29, were part of a gang of up to 50 masked and hooded men armed with knives and lighter fuel who targeted two bustling late-night cafes in the early hours of August 10, as riots spread across the country.

The mob first rampaged through Le Bijou, also known as Selma café, in Lodge Road, charging a trolley at customers then upturning tables and chairs. Terrified customers sought sanctuary inside as the thugs tried to set the building ablaze with fuel-soaked rags.

A brave member of staff saved the cafe and its customers by dousing the flames with a fire extinguisher.

The heavily-armed group then tried to set light to a parked car and smashed the window of a shop, before moving on to Rym café in Park Road, where they threw chairs, smashed bottles and robbed customers of cash and phones, Wood Green Crown Court heard.

After using CS gas to subdue some of the men found on a garage roof, police arrested and charged 19 suspects with conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to commit violent disorder. There were so many defendants that two trials were held, in November and January this year.

Some of the defendants had exchanged messages on their Blackberry mobile phones the day before about meeting up to loot and attack police.

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Prosecutor Benedict Kelleher said at the first trial: “A gang of between 25 and 50 young men gathered at a footpath near to an estate and attacked two cafes that were filled with customers sitting outside.

“These cafes were quite deliberately targeted. There was pretty much nothing open in the area apart from these two cafes, which are popular with Arabic people who can sit outside and enjoy a shisha pipe.

“During this attack some customers ran inside to escape and some were caught outside and robbed. Others lost things that they had left outside as they retreated.

“This was a planned attack, not just some young men who happened to be walking past a café and decided to try and rob some of the customers. This could have been a lot worse if there had not been police officers very close by.”

Reporting restrictions were finally lifted after the last defendant was sentenced, 20 months after the riots. While six men were acquitted, either on direction of the judge or by the juries, 13 were jailed for 43 years nine months between them.

Jailed on both counts were: Sean Mitchell, 21, of Westbourne Park Road, Ladbroke Grove, (five years); Badawi el Badawi, 22, of Church Street Estate, Marylebone (four years eight months); Bedir Al Ali, 29, of Burne Street, Marylebone (four years); Ahmed Al-Jaf, 20, of Churchill Gardens, Pimlico (four years); Sameer Shah, 19, of Lilestone St, Marylebone (three years eight months); Badr Amin, 19, of Lilestone St, Marylebone (three years six months); and Aiman Ibrahim, 18, of Maida Vale (two years nine months).

Cleared of conspiracy to rob but jailed for conspiracy to commit violent disorder were: Adel Driouch, 22, of Church Street Estate, Marylebone (four years six months); Gyasi Skinner, 20, of Oxford Gardens, Ladbroke Grove (four years); Samir Drissi, 20, of Willesden Lane, Kilburn, and Aaron Israel, 23, of Convent Gardens, Ladbroke Grove, (3 years 3 months each); Jacques Samuel De La Lubie, 20, of Broomhall Road, Blakeley, Manchester (three years); and Rodney Davis, 20, of Sulgrave Road, Shepherd’s Bush (two years 10 months).