Kilburn man jailed for rampage in St John’s Wood during the London riots of 2011

Le Bijou was targetted by the gang

Le Bijou was targetted by the gang - Credit: Archant

Samir Drissi, 20, of Willesden Lane, was one of 13 men who stormed two late-night cafes

A Kilburn man has been jailed for taking part in rampage through St John’s Wood during the London riots of 2011.

Samir Drissi, 20, of Willesden Lane, was one of 13 men aged between 18 and 29 who tried to set fire to one cafe and terrified customers at a second with knives and smashed bottles in the early hours of August 10, as riots spread across the country.

Wood Green Crown Court heard a gang of up to 50 masked and hooded men armed with knives and lighter fuel targeted two bustling late-night cafes.

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.

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

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.

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.”

There were so many defendants that two trials were held, in November and January this year.

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, Driss and 12 other men were jailed for 43 years nine months between them.

Driss was cleared of conspiracy to rob but convicted of conspiracy to commit violent disorder and jailed for three years and three months.