England riots: The YouTube mugging that shocked Britain
- 2 March 2012
- From the section UK
Two men posing as Good Samaritans have been convicted of robbing a Malaysian student who had been attacked and had his jaw broken during last year's riots. The whole incident was captured on CCTV.
The shaky video footage is less than 30 seconds long, but captures one of the most notorious and memorable incidents of last August's riots.
It begins with a group of apparently sympathetic youths helping a bleeding mugging victim to his feet - a moment of tenderness amid the waves of violence that hit England's towns and cities.
But what happens next is far from an act of kindness.
As the dazed young man makes an attempt to stagger to his feet, the apparent good Samaritans lean in, open his rucksack, and take his belongings.
But what the attackers do not realise is that the entire incident has been caught on camera.
The video was soon posted on file-sharing site YouTube, and rapidly seen by millions of people worldwide.
What followed was a wave of repulsion, and the prime minister held up the incident as a powerful symbol of "Broken Britain".
"When we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society," said David Cameron.
The 8 August attack in Barking, east London, made global headlines and became one of the defining images of the disorder.
Giles Fraser, the then canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, said the video had a powerful effect because it encapsulated the "moral vacuum that was at the heart of the unrest".
A hunt to track down the victim - and his assailants - began, and slowly, more details emerged.
The injured teenager was revealed as 20-year-old Malaysian student Ashraf Hazier Rossli, who had only recently arrived in Britain.
He was on his way to buy food to break his Ramadan fast when he became caught up in the riots.
He was set upon by Beau Isagba, 17, who broke his jaw in two places and knocked him off his bicycle.
As he sat dazed and in a pool of blood the youths seen in the video gathered around him.
Reece Donovan, 22, and John Kafunda, 22, took his mobile phone, wallet and a Sony games console with a number of games.
Mr Rossli later told their trial: "I was sat on the pavement with blood pouring from my mouth. I remember being approached by a male who asked if I was okay. I remember being pulled to my feet, then I felt someone tugging at my rucksack.
"I was not in a position to defend myself and was still suffering from the effects of being hit. I knew they were stealing from me but I could do nothing."
Donovan and Kafunda were caught red-handed on the CCTV footage but both swore blind it was not them.
Kafunda told police he was "a million per cent sure" he was not the man in the film seen talking to Mr Rossli while his accomplice rifles his rucksack.
"If that was me I would physically stop them but that isn't me there," he told detectives who confronted him with the video evidence.
The jury did not believe him and both Kafunda and Donovan were convicted of robbery and violent disorder. Donovan was also found guilty of burglary from Tesco in Barking on the same day.
They are due to be sentenced next month, as is Isagba, who was convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm and stealing Mr Rossli's bike.
Mr Rossli was taken to the Royal London Hospital and after treatment for his injuries the magnanimity of what he had to say appeared a world away from the actions of his mean-spirited attackers.
The shaken finance student, from Kuala Lumpur, told reporters at a press conference: "I feel very sorry for the people who did this.
"It was really sad because among them were children."
As Mr Rossli was roundly praised for his positive attitude, a huge internet campaign was launched to support him.
In the days that followed a site namedLet's Do Something Nice For Ashrafwas set up, along with countless Facebook groups, and messages from well-wishers poured in.
A message on the original site now simply states the incident was a "shameful way for a guest in our country to be treated" and says thousands of people have donated to the cause.
More than £22,000 was raised for Mr Rossli but he pledged to give away half of that sum to other victims of the violence.
He was later named as one of10 Heroes of the London Riotsby Time magazine.
After the verdict, Chief Supt Gary Buttercase, temporary borough commander at Barking and Dagenham, described Mr Rossli as "a man of humility and dignity and a tremendous credit to his country".
"I am particularly pleased that we have managed to get justice for the appalling attack he suffered and the subsequent theft that has attracted derision from across the world," he added.
Rahimy Abd Rahim, of the Malaysian Star newspaper, the first news organisation to track down Mr Rossli, said there had been extensive coverage of the riots in his country.
The reporter said Mr Rossli's story appeared on the front page of every national newspaper and he became a "local hero".
Despite the adverse coverage, Mr Rahim said he did not believe the attack had altered Malaysia's view of Britain, which is a popular place to study for Malaysians. There are about 12,500 Malaysian students in the UK; about 4,000 of them government-sponsored.
"I don't believe that the UK's image has been tainted since the attack. It was clearly an isolated case," he said.
"Malaysians will continue to visit and study in the UK despite the incident."