Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham riot-hit shopkeeper left out of pocket

An independent shopkeeper in Birmingham is struggling to replenish her stock after looters stole thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes, alcohol and cash during the riots in August.

Apna Food and Wines store in Handsworth was invaded by a group of up to 40 marauding youths who smashed their way through the shutters and helped themselves to stock.

The store's owner, Kuldip Chana, got a worried call from her 22-year-old son and 18-year old daughter at about 20:15 BST on 8 August to tell her that looters were heading towards Handsworth.

She told them to immediately shut up and get out. The store was attacked just before midnight.

'Children's safety first'

"They were only in there for about four minutes but it has cost me so dearly, you wouldn't believe it," Mrs Chana said.

She has made an insurance claim for up to £16,000 and to date has received £4,000 to help repair the shutters and furniture and buy more stock for Diwali.

Image caption Mrs Chana said watching the rioters breaking into her store on the security cameras was "horrifying"

She opened the depleted store five days later but said she had no idea how long it would be before she was back to pre-riot profits and trading levels.

Mrs Chana said she had been told she would receive a maximum of £500 for the £5,500 that was stolen from the till, because she exceeded the amount of money she was insured to have on the premises.

Mrs Chana said: "I wasn't able to get to the bank so I had more cash on the premises than I should have. When my children rang, my first thought was for their safety.

"I just told them to lock up and get home as fast as they could and not to worry about anything else, their safety comes first, but we have been completely cleaned out.

"Whatever money I had has gone towards repairing the shop and I can't afford to replace all of the stock. A lot of the shelves are just lying empty.

Police compensation

"The banks have been very understanding but I am overdrawn and have gone over my overdraft limit too.

"I am having to pay myself and my family less in wages and a couple of cheques have bounced. It is a difficult climate anyway, sales are down by about 30% and my Diwali sales were down 50% compared with last year."

Mrs Chana's last resort is applying for compensation from West Midlands Police Authority (WPA).

Under an act passed in 1886 the authority is liable for damage to buildings and their contents caused during a riot.

The authority then has to apply to the Home Office to be refunded.

WMPA has received 346 riot-related claims for a total of £5,177,120 but said on Thursday it did not guarantee to meet all of those costs.

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