Anuji Varma investigates the aftermath of the riots and the legacy it left for the community.
Twenty five years on, and Lozells Road is still tainted by the memory of the savage riots.
Shopkeepers say the area has been transformed over recent years – vibrant with a range of business – but trade is slow as people are simply scared of visiting the area.
Innocent brothers Kassamali, 38, and Amirali Moledina, 44, perished in a night of violence, and the attacks are still fresh in the minds of shopkeepers and residents who remained in Lozells Road, where the victims had run their Post Office.
Sukwinder Singh, 50, was devastated when his shop HC Plyboard and Timber Ltd, which he ran with his father, was also destroyed in the fire.
The building was looted and then burned down.
Mr Singh did not learn of the terrible news until 6am the following day, on September 10.
“A relative called and told me what had happened,” he explained. “We couldn’t believe it and dashed to the scene. I found my stock half a mile down the road as the looters had completely trashed the shop. And then when I got to the site, it was shocking. The building had been completely burned down. We’d only put up a new sign the day before and had spent a bit of money on it.
“As well as our stock, there were other items just strewn across the road which was littered with so many things.
“Our shop had been full of products because it was the beginning of the month and we had just re-stocked.”
It took the family three years to re-open and during that time Mr Singh’s father Gurdip suffered a heart attack, which the family believes was caused by the stress of the situation.
“My father took it really badly and he suffered,” Mr Singh added. “He was very upset at what happened to his shop, but after we re-opened he did get better.”
The business moved to a property next door to the original site, which remains empty, and is now called SS Hardware DIY. But it’s far from booming.
“People are too scared to come to Lozells Road because of what has happened here. But it’s a different place now to what it was five years ago.
“There’s a great selection of businesses here, from clothes shops, to grocers and our trade – hardware.
“Customers need to know that things have changed here. We are all open for business and we want more people to come to Lozells Road,” Mr Singh said.
Madan Lal, 55, who runs Annu Fashions, was in his shop on the night of the siege, but he found a way of keeping his business safe – by paying off the looters.
“I was with my two brothers at the shop when it all kicked off. We saw the other businesses getting looted, so we stood at the door handing out £50, £20 and £10 notes to the ringleaders so they wouldn’t damage our shop. I think we ended up paying out at least £700 to protect our business. It worked and no one took anything from us.”
Aftab Ali, 54, was trapped in his clothing shop Henna on the night of September 9 with his three-week-old child.
He recalled that terrible night: “I saw the fire engines coming up the road and realised there was something going on. I had to quickly pull down the shutters. My family and I live above the shop and we didn’t know what was going to happen.
“Luckily a friend helped us out the back door and took us to their house. When I finally came back the next day, the door had been smashed and the window broken. I quickly gathered some more belongings and went back to my friend’s house. We stayed away for two weeks.”
Afterwards Mr Ali said he wanted to sell up and move away from the area.
“We did feel that we didn’t want to stay around. But because of everything that had happened we struggled to sell the property.”
Now he agrees with other traders – that business is slow because customers are too frightened to visit the area.
“Lozells Road has vastly improved with new businesses and housing,” he said. “It would be good to extend the variety of trade so that it is more appealing to a wider range of people. But people are scared to come here which definitely affects our businesses.”
Mr Singh, who runs the local newsagents on the street, was 25 at the time of the riots. He recalled how he watched his regular customers looting neighbouring shops.
“The street was chaotic and very scary. But the worst part was seeing your customers who were supposed to be good people, looting.
“Facing them afterwards, when they came into our shop was extremely awkward. But they just came into the store and said good morning as if nothing had happened. We had clearly seen them stealing from other shops. These were women who would struggle getting up the step into our shop, yet they didn’t hold back that day.”
Mr Singh’s shop escaped the looters, but they did smash the windows. “It was mayhem,” he added.
Since the riots 25 years ago, and the recent troubles in 2005, Mr Singh said the street was a much safer place. He added: “It has improved quite a lot. It’s taken quite a long time to get things back to normal, but I think we are there. People are working together more and Lozells Road is safer.”
It wasn’t just the shopkeepers who suffered, but residents were left terrified too. Widow Gracie Beddard, aged 91, has lived in the area for most of her life, and remembered the riots.
“I was sitting in my house and heard a scuffle outside. I looked out the window and there were a pile of clothes in our front yard.
“Obviously, one of the looters had left them there. My husband and I went into the back room as we thought that would be safer.
“Then one of the men living further down the road, away from the riots, came over and took us to his house which was a safer place.
“We returned home the next day and the rioting started again. Afterwards I did want to leave, but we stayed put and now we have a very good community here.”
Her sister Dorothy Parker added: “I had come over to make sure Gracie was ok, and just heard this terrible roar. It was the sound the rioters coming up the road. They picked up a car and then set fire to it. We were terrified.”
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