More than three million CDs as well as tens of thousands of film DVDs were destroyed, threatening a music industry crisis, when a giant Sony warehouse in Enfield, north London, was burned down earlier this month.
The building was also the main storage facility for PIAS, Britain’s biggest distributor of independent music, threatening the livelihoods of more than 150 independent music labels which were affected.
The blaze, which could be seen for miles across London, became one of the symbols of the chaos which erupted in the capital before spreading to other major cities. Witnesses reported seeing informal gangs of looters helping themselves to electrical goods shortly before the 260,000 sq ft building went up in flames on August 8. But evidence has now emerged suggesting that the well-guarded Sony DADC distribution centre was deliberately targeted by a professional gang, in a carefully planned raid, using the riots as a distraction. Sources in the security industry disclosed that intruders first arrived wielding specialist cutting equipment and spent up to two hours dismantling a high security fence before breaking in. It is claimed that they then summoned a fleet of vans and drove inside the premises, which are set back from the main focus of rioting in the area, before beginning to load up stock. According to one source, security guards on site were effectively overwhelmed and unable to fend off the intruders, knowing that police were already stretched as anarchy gripped the capital. After loading up with stolen goods, the robbers are then said to have invited other gangs in to continue the looting in an attempt to cover their tracks. By the time a crowd of youths were seen inside the warehouse helping themselves to stock including games consoles, the original robbers had already left the scene. Tommy Thompson, an employee at a nearby hotel, was attacked as a gang of about 20 looters made off, loaded with stolen goods, before the building went up in flames. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police declined to comment on the disclosures. Five youths – two 17-year-old boys and men aged 18, 22 and 23 – have been arrested in connection with the looting and arson but released on bail pending further inquiries. Sony declined to comment while the investigation remains under way. The company has set up a new distribution site in Hertfordshire, averting the threat bankruptcy for labels which depended on the facility.