The woman who was photographed leaping from a burning building in the most iconic image of the summer riots had filmed the man accused of starting the blaze, a court heard yesterday.
Monika Konczyk, 32, had captured Gordon Thompson on her mobile phone allegedly setting fire to a 150-year-old family furniture store opposite her home in Croydon, south London.
Miss Konczyk, a shop assistant from Poland, then retreated to her flat where she thought she would be safe.
Riot drama: Monika Konczyk (left) had allegedly captured Gordon Thompson (right) on her mobile phone
However, the heat and embers from the blaze set fire to the block of flats she lived in on the other side of the road.
As the flames engulfed her building, the frightened woman was trapped inside.
She was forced to climb out of her first floor window and leap 16ft into the arms of police officers beneath her – an image captured by photographers and reproduced around the world.
The Old Bailey heard how Thompson, 33, ‘endangered the lives of countless people’ by setting fire to House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon last August.
In an act of ‘cynical cowardice’, he shouted: ‘Let’s burn this place’ before setting a sofa alight, it was claimed.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow said: ‘The effect, as anyone would realise and as he plainly intended, was catastrophic.
Lives at risk: Monika Konczyk was forced to jump from a burning building near to the blaze at House of Reeves
‘The sofa went up in flames, as did other pieces of furniture in the showroom, and within minutes the inferno was raging out of control.
‘The defendant stayed at the scene to watch what he had done before the heat and flames drove him away. The heat was so intense and it was raining ash.’
Mr Glasgow added that the ‘resulting fire was devastating’.
‘Once House of Reeves was ablaze, glowing embers from the fire set light to the residential property on the other side of the road and residents were forced to flee for their lives,’ he said.
‘Some were lucky to escape at all. Indeed, one young woman became trapped inside her flat and was forced to jump from a first-floor window into the arms of rescuers waiting below.
‘There was nothing that the fire brigade could do. The furniture shop was razed to the ground and all that remained were the supporting walls and a pile of smouldering rubble.’ The Old Bailey heard how Thompson ‘ran riot’ through the streets of Croydon during one of the worst nights of the civil unrest.
He was part of a masked gang that ‘roamed lawlessly’ through the streets.
The court was told how Thompson, a painter and decorator, played a ‘leading part in the disorder’.
Heritage destroyed: Fire crews battled desperately to save the House of Reeves, but were unable to rescue the 145-year-old building
Before the arson attack, he smashed shop windows and looted bottles of alcohol from the shelves of an Iceland store.
A short time later he broke into a branch of House of Fraser in a shopping centre with a group of looters and left with ‘armfuls of goods’.
Thompson then turned his attention to House of Reeves, a family furniture business that had survived two world wars.
He watched as others smashed their way into the store before entering and allegedly stealing a laptop.
He then asked a fellow rioter for a lighter and used it to set fire to a sofa, it was said.
Around an hour later, Thompson was seen pouring petrol on to a nearby street before attempting to set light to it, the court heard.
Bus driver Flint Agyekum, who was at the wheel of the number 157 Croydon to Morden service, watched in horror as he tried to help his passengers off before they reached the worst affected areas.
He parked the bus in a side street, but it was later destroyed by fire. Thompson is not alleged to have had any part in this.
Thompson has already admitted burgling Iceland and House of Fraser, but denies taking part in the attack on House of Reeves.
He is on trial for violent disorder, burglary of Reeves, arson with intent to endanger life and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.