Attack on shop owner ‘could be Woolwich reprisal’

Drummer Lee Rigby

Drummer Lee Rigby

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AN ASIAN shopkeeper was attacked with a baseball bat in what police say could be a reprisal for the murder of a soldier in Woolwich.

The owner of the Premier Convenience Store in Whitworth Road, Gosport, had to defend himself from blows as a man set about the store with the bat.

The incident happened at around 7.15pm on Thursday, a quarter of an hour before the owner shut up shop for the night.

The News is not naming the shop owner, as he asked to remain anonymous.

He said he was unharmed in the attack, and was yesterday open for business as usual, with the only damage visible being to a scratch card dispenser on the shop counter.

Investigating officers say they are treating the incident as racially-aggravated criminal damage.

They have arrested a 22-year-old local man, who has been bailed until June 22.

Fareham and Gosport District Commander, Acting Superintendent Darren O’Callaghan said: ‘One line of enquiry is whether the crime was motivated in response to Wednesday’s events in Woolwich.

‘Such reprisals are not acceptable and we will not tolerate anyone who tries to intimidate or harm innocent members of our community.

‘Hate crimes are committed by a minority and are not representative of wider communities

‘The vast majority of people in this country do not support violence or terrorism.’

Act Supt O’Callaghan said police had been liaising with the community since the murder of drummer Lee Rigby near Woolwich barracks on Wednesday.

His murder has been linked to Islamic extremists and reprisals from nationalist groups were swift.

Local people have described him as a man who is at the heart of their community.

Ian McCafferty, who lives on Gordon Road but who is a regular in the shop, said: ‘He told me there were two men.

‘They tried to hit him but he put his arm up.

‘He looks alright – he seems okay. I can’t really believe it happened. They must have known he was about to close for the night.’

Heather Ayling, who runs Zodiac Florest in Whitworth Road, said she was not surprised that there had been reprisals locally.

She added: ‘You could just see it on Facebook, something was bound to happen.

‘But he’s one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. He would do anything for anybody.

‘This is disgusting. He didn’t have anything to do with Woolwich.’

Locals in the Junction Tavern pub opposite the shop saw the aftermath of the attack.

One, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘I was looking out of the window and saw all these police cars and a riot van arrive.

‘I thought it was the charity shop next door for a minute, because they’re always getting broken into.

‘I was shocked when I heard what happened.

‘The police were out there all night.’

Police are asking anyone with information about the attack to call Gosport Police Station by phoning 101.

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