Riots escalate in third night of violence

Riots have spread rapidly across the east, north and south of London this evening in the third night of violence to hit the capital.

Youths armed with bottles and other missiles torched cars, buildings and bins in Hackney, Peckham, Lewisham and further out while police fought running battles to keep control of areas.

Police formed human barriers across main roads in the centres of several of the affected areas but struggled to prevent the disturbances from spreading.

The disturbances started in Tottenham late on Saturday when a peaceful protest over the police's shooting of a suspect turned violent and left buildings and cars in ashes and shops looted.

That violence continued on Sunday night into Enfield and Brixton but has now engulfed areas from Kilburn in the north to Croydon on the outskirts of the south east.

Witnesses cited police raids on housing estates, or stop and search tactics on members of the communities as reasons for the flare up.

But authorities condemned the widespread looting and violence as personally, not politically motivated.

Home secretary Theresa May, who cut short her holiday to take charge of the government response to the riots, said arrests had climbed to 215 and 27 people had been charged.

"The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen, this is sheer criminality ... These people will be brought to justice. They will be made to face the consequences of their actions," she said.

Police said a double decker bus had been set alight in Peckham. In Hackney, youths, some in hooded tops, broke shop windows, including that of a Ladbrokes betting shop.

"We had boarded the whole place up, but they broke down the door and smashed up the place. They threw a bottle at me and it hit my leg," said the owner of a petrol station in Hackney, blood pouring from his leg.

Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh said the force was putting more officers on the streets in Hackney and other areas overnight.

"Let me make it clear that people who are using current events as an excuse or cover to break the law, steal, attack police officers and cause fear to Londoners will not be tolerated by the vast majority of Londoners and us," he said.