“When they talked about fighting fire with fire, I don’t think this was what they had in mind,” says Peckham resident Arthur Piddle as he watches a mob of so-called vigilantes hurl firebombs through the windows of a local house. “I know they’re saying that the lad who lives there is one of the little bastards who was rioting the other day, setting fire to buildings in the shopping centre, that’s actually his Gran’s house. She’s eighty two, for God’s sake!” However, the leader of the mob – who wears a mask and hoodie and will only identify himself as ‘Ron’ – is unrepentant, even as the house’s elderly occupant attempts to escape the blaze, hampered by her walking frame. “These little gits have brought it all on themselves,” he declares. “Running around, wrecking the neighbourhood, terrifying old ladies and families – well, let’s see how they like it when we do the same to them!” This isn’t an isolated incident – already there have been reports that in Lewisham a youth centre has been burned down and local teenagers assaulted by a mob of elderly men. “We’re just taking back the streets for ordinary, decent, people,” says ‘Ron’, as he directs several of his mob – wielding brand new baseball bats, some still with JD Sports price labels on them – to prevent firemen from fighting the blaze. “The police and justice system are clearly inadequate, so we’re administering our own justice – an eye for an eye. That’s only fair.”

However, the motivations of ‘Ron’ in persecuting this particular alleged looter have been called into question by other local residents. “He’s got previous form with that lad,” claims seventy-three year old Piddle. “He had a right go at him a couple of months ago for supposedly playing his stereo too loudly one evening. Then, last week, he accused the kid of having scratched his car. He had no evidence, of course. No more evidence than he has the boy was one of the looters!” Indeed, several other local residents are adamant that the alleged looter was actually at home looking after his grandmother during the recent London riots. ‘Ron’ is quick to defend his actions, pointing out that his group’s current target fits the government’s profile of a looter. “Not only is the little git young, but he listens to rap music, lives in a council house, buys drugs and claims benefits,” he declares, although other local residents have pointed out that the only drugs the youth buys are from the chemists for his grandmother’s arthritis, and the only benefits he regularly collects is a carer’s allowance.

‘Ron’ isn’t the only disgruntled Londoner to have formed his own vigilante group in the wake of the August riots. Ealing shopkeeper ‘Costas’ has banded together with a number of other local businessmen who all had their premises broken into and ransacked during the recent disturbances, in order to launch a ‘restorative’ action against a local housing estate. “They came through here like a whirlwind, smashing windows, breaking into flats and carting stuff off,” says twenty three year old Jake Trollied, a resident of the estate. “A whole bunch of the masked bastards kicked my door in while I was sat watching the telly – they stripped the place bare: they walked off with everything, the microwave, DVD player, even the bloody telly! There was nothing I could do to stop them – they all had baseball bats and stuff.”

Trollied’s experience was typical, with the whole estate being cleared of valuable consumer goods by the mob of shopkeepers. “Listen, it wasn’t bloody robbery, we were just taking back the stuff they looted from our shops,” declares ‘Costas’, defending the actions of his group. “I mean, they must have nicked it all – they all claim to be poor and on benefits, but their flats and houses was chock full of this stuff. Some of them had three or four flat screen televisions, laptops, mobiles all kinds of expensive stuff. How can the afford that if it isn’t stolen?” Trollied has responded angrily to such suggestions, pointing out that, like most residents of the estate, he is actually employed. “I work three different jobs to earn the money to pay for all my gear,” he says. “The only robbery that goes on around here is from those bastards who run the local shops – have you seen the prices they charge? You know, I’m glad they had their shops torched and looted during the riots – they’ve been ripping off the local community for years!” ‘Costas’, his damaged electrical goods shop now fully re-stocked with recently acquired ‘pre-owned’ goods, denies that he and his fellow shopkeepers are the real crooks. “Listen, I’m giving people here a good deal, just look at this freezer,” he says, gesturing at a slightly battered appliance. “You know what that would cost new? My asking price is at least ten percent less than that, and it’s still full of frozen food! I’m not unreasonable, I understand that money is tight, that’s why I offer finance to my customers at a very reasonable rate of interest!”

With bands of vigilantes springing up all over London, there have inevitably been clashes between rival groups. In one particularly ugly incident, a group of Turkish shopkeepers found themselves confronted by a mob of English nationalists in Croydon as they prepared to defend their properties. “I don’t know who the bloody hell they think they are – trying to stop English people from rioting in their own country!” bellowed English Justice League leader Nigel Griffiths after police intervened to try and prevent violence. “I can guarantee that if a load of black or Asian rioters came here, they’d let them loot any businesses belonging to white people to their hearts’ content!” Griffiths explained that he and his gang were on the streets of Croydon exclusively to protect any shops and businesses owned by white English people, but denies that he approves of white rioters burning down ethnically-owned businesses. “Obviously, we don’t want to be seen to be condoning lawlessness,” he says. “But there’s no doubt that if a poor, unemployed white Englishman was to throw a brick through the window of an Indian restaurant or kebab shop, it would be a political, rather than a criminal act.”

Back in Peckham, ‘Ron’ is already planning for ‘post-riot’ London, believing that there is a permanent role for groups like his. “It’s like David Cameron said, all these riots were down to lawless gangs of young people,” he muses. “So the answer is obvious: if gangs are the problem, then gangs are also the answer. The police are obviously powerless, so if we’re going to take the streets back, it needs gangs of responsible adults like us to provide these young thugs with proper role models. Not to mention a bloody good hiding when that doesn’t work.” Arthur Piddle is unimpressed by such sentiments. “It’s like the thirties again, with the bloody black shirts strutting round the streets,” he wheezes. “The difference is that this time the bleedin’ government seems to be encouraging them! All hail King Mob!”