- Young looters are using BlackBerry handsets to send messages which police can't trace
- Police pledge to track down people using the internet to incite violence
Last updated at 8:21 PM on 8th August 2011
Rule number one about pulling off a successful heist is that you don't tell anyone - and you definitely don't post a picture of yourself online with all the stolen goods.
Unfortunately, this rule was lost on one hapless opportunist, who posted a picture of himself on Facebook with various items - suggesting that he stole them from vandalised stores during the week's rioting.
It was one of the more astounding posts that police claim encouraged violence and theft across the capital over the weekend and early this morning.
Police also say sites such as Twitter - as well as BlackBerry handsets - were used to co-ordinate attacks on police and tell potential rioters where to find violence hotspots.
Don't show your Facebook: A brazen Londoner posted a picture of himself with items still in their packaging. Police say such postings encouraged other people to join in the looting
BlackBerry handsets, owned by more than a third of British teenagers, allow users to send one-to-many messages to their network of contacts, connected by BlackBerry Messenger PIN codes.
Unlike conventional texts or calls, as well as Twitter or Facebook, many BlackBerry messages are untraceable by the authorities.
Hundreds of people on Twitter posted pictures of a burning police car and evidence of looting, with many showing their approval of the violence and vandalism and encouraging others to join in.
Police say that many of the tweets have pictures of the violence in a show of bravado, and have now warned that identified Twitter users could face arrest for inciting violence.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh confirmed officers were looking at the website as part of investigations into widespread looting and rioting.
A two-minute film of a police car being trashed by rioters was posted on YouTube to a rap soundtrack. The clip finished with the words: 'The enemy isn't your own people, the enemy is the police.'
Looter: Pictures put on Twitter showed some of the rioters using shopping trolleys to carry away stolen items including TVs and mobile phones
Police are scrutinising tweets and messages on internet forums and could press charges if they consider they amount to incitement to riot.
Metropolitan Police Commander Adrian Hanstock said: 'There has been some speculation on social media sites and we are actively posting accurate information to correct this.
'What we would ask for is if anyone has information about those who committed these offences or anyone intending to, then please let us know.'
Police say there was clear evidence of rioters co-ordinating their attacks using the social networking site, stirring up emotions against the police and urging others to join in the violence.
Tweets reported specific locations of clashes with police. One, from a user calling himself 'English Frank', seemed to be encouraging rioters to kill police officers.
Stirring up emotion: Pictures of burning police cars were put on sites such as Twitter and YouTube, with many comments revelling in the damage caused and carrying anti-authority sentiments
The tweet read: 'Everyone up and roll to Tottenham f*** the 5-0. I hope 1 dead tonight.'
Another Twitter user, 'Sonny Twag', tweeted: 'Want to roll Tottenham to loot. I do want a free TV. Who wudn't.'
Yet another, 'DannyWonders', tweeted: 'Jewellry Shop In Green Lanes Getting Robbed Right In Front Of My Eyes
Shops selling luxury goods were the obvious targets of the looters. Police said the majority of opportunistic thieves were young - aged in their teens and early twenties.
Mobile phone and jewellery shops were damaged and plundered amid the violence, and at least one Twitter image showed a young man wheeling a trolley full of looted goods.
Looting quickly spread in Tottenham, with high-street giants Currys, Argos, Comet and PC World the most popular among thieves.
Support pages: Online pages of support for Mark Duggan, shot dead on Thursday by police, feature anti-government or anti-authority messages
Casual shopping: Suspected looters carry boxed shoes from a JD Sports store in Tottenham Hale Retail Park, and even have time to look at their choices. Police admitted they were too stretched to stop many thieves
The Barclays Bank branch in Tottenham High Road was targeted, with rioters smashing their way into the branch and its cashpoint machine ripped from the wall and emptied.
But Twitter was also being used to warn people away from the area, with many tweets telling peaceful residents of the affected areas to keep away from flashpoints.
Despite the quickly escalating violence, the protest had begun peacefully.
Family and friends of Mark Duggan, the father-of-four shot dead by police on Thursday night, had marched from the Broadwater Farm estate to Tottenham police station to demand answers.
They arrived at about 5.15pm on Saturday, but were made to wait for hours before anyone addressed them.
When an officer finally emerged, he said a more senior policeman would have to answer their questions.
Defiance: A masked man holds his arms in the air during the middle of Saturday's riot. Police say that social networking sites such as Twitter were used to co-ordinate attacks against officers
Outnumbered: A lone man stands in front of a group of riot police. Tweets told where riot hotspots were and encouraged people to join in the violence
As night fell around 8pm, the crowd had doubled and younger men sporting hoodies and covering their faces began to arrive on the back of the rumours that a 16-year-old girl had been attacked by police.
Some witnesses claimed she approached officers to ask questions, but then threw stones at them and one struck her to the ground with a baton.
One local said: 'There was a stand-off with the police which was tense, but not violent. But this changed when an officer hit a woman with a baton.
She was very distressed and it angered the crowd who started throwing rocks, pint glasses and poles at the police. Then it all got really out of hand.'
Police yesterday said they were aware of an incident when a teenage girl was asked to leave the area but said no baton was used.
Inferno: Flames rage through the Carpetright building in Tottenham on Saturday night, with fire crews prevented from tackling it in case they were attacked by rioters
With tensions fraying, the Duggan family group, which included his fiancee Semone Wilson, and friends, decided to leave as some youths started smashing and burning two police cars.
It soon turned into a full-scale pitched battle, spilling out along Tottenham High Road.
By 11pm a double-decker bus was in flames, and crowds gathered to jeer police. Shops were smashed, including a Carpetright and Aldi supermarket which were both set alight.
Scores of youths were seen walking up and down the streets with TVs, stereos, mobile phones and food – all stolen.
Others were posing in front of burnt-out cars for photos and some were even getting snaps showing off their loot.
Through the night, rioters and looters littered the streets. The violence spread to Wood Green, Enfield and Brixton, where more shops were smashed, cars burned and goods stolen.
As the violence escalated, further tweets inflated the situation.
One said: 'F*** the electronics, them Turkish jewellers needed to get robbed.' And a post on an internet forum simply read: 'Everything must go.'
Photographs of looters pushing shopping trolleys full of stolen goods - and one incredibly brazen looter posing with his booty, his face clearly identifiable - were also posted online.
In all, the looting carried on unabated for three hours before any control was regained by police.
Stores including Boots, JD Sports, O2, Curry's, Argos, Orange, PC World and Comet at a shopping centre in Tottenham Hale were hit badly, as looters swiped anything they could, including breaking into cash registers.
Yesterday Tottenham High Road remained awash with thieves who even queued patiently to steal clothes from a sports shop. Police chiefs admitted that they were too stretched to prevent it, and said there were fears for the safety of officers.
Metropolitan Police Commander Hanstock said: 'Our priority will always be to try to preserve life, and with the numbers of people on the street and violence being directed at the police and fire service this had to remain our priority.'We are aware that a number of shops were looted and this is very regrettable.'