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New film depicts Islington gang’s Selfridges smash and grab

PUBLISHED: 06:30 30 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:46 01 May 2015

Reg Traviss on set for the recreation of the Burkha heist which took place at Selfridges in 2013

Reg Traviss on set for the recreation of the Burkha heist which took place at Selfridges in 2013

Archant

Burkha robbery features in new film imagining the lives of borough’s violent robbery gangs

Scene of the smash and grab robbery in SelfridgesScene of the smash and grab robbery in Selfridges

A new gangster film imagining the lives of Islington’s smash and grab criminals could create sympathy for violent thieves, the town hall’s crime chief has warned.

Reg Traviss’s ‘Anti-social’ recreates a raid from 2013 where a gang dressed in burkhas and armed with hammers and axes made off with £1.5million in stolen jewellery from Selfridges in Oxford Street before fleeing on motorbikes.

As a result of the real crime, a gang of predominantly Islington men were jailed for combined 58 years in August. They had left shoppers “cowering in fear” and “fleeing in panic”.

Several other high profile smash and grab raids have involved Islington gangs while a group of five men from the borough are on trial at Kingston Crown Court for a raid at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair last July.

Reg shows a burkha clad cast member how he'd like him to wield his axeReg shows a burkha clad cast member how he'd like him to wield his axe

Mr Traviss, writer and director of the film which is released tomorrow (Friday), says the story does not condone or glamorise the crimes and that the mimicking of real events was something that he felt would make it more relevant to the audience.

But Islington Council’s executive member for community safety Cllr Paul Convery said that recreating scenes in which the public were threatened with “serious violence” was dangerous.

“These films almost always have a narrative designed to make you feel sympathy for the criminals, or worry whether somebody is going to get caught,” said Cllr Convery, who is yet to see the film.

“These are not smash and grabs in the dead of night, they are daylight robberies where members of the public are at risk and threatened with claw hammers and things like that.”

Councillor Paul Convery said that these films were in danger of creating sympathy for violent criminalsCouncillor Paul Convery said that these films were in danger of creating sympathy for violent criminals

In the film a gang of four friends plan and pull off a number of high profile heists but three of the four are eventually killed, with the fourth ending up in hospital.

One of the gang members is the brother of a graffiti artist who is not part of the gang but ends up replacing his brother on a multi-million pound robbery when he is shot by a rival gang.

Mr Traviss, former boyfriend of the late singer Amy Winehouse, said the film was only based on the events and was simply how he imagined the lives of the young criminals.

“I didn’t want to judge them because I didn’t think that was right,” he said, “the audience can do that.

“What they do is normal to them although we can see it’s extremely ani-social.

“I’ve spoken to people who read about smash and grabs and think it sounds a bit like the wild west – they come in with motorbikes and hammers and then ride out of town – but I was very careful not to glamorise them.

“They are baddies and I tried to show a little bit of a darker side to the gang in places.

“But I think the advent of smash and grabs and their emergence is interesting. I think it shows that criminals move with the times in many ways.

“The days of going into a bank with a shotgun are gone – nowadays they can use motorbikes and target a jeweller’s. Two minutes and they’ve made off with £2million.”

But Cllr Convery said these criminals were not as intelligent as they were often depicted.

“More often than not they end up being caught almost immediately,” he said.

“When you watch the CCTV of some of these incidents you can see this is not clever stuff, their riding on the pavements on the way to committing crimes.”

The film comes as the Met is undertaking a crackdown on motorbike and moped crime across six London boroughs including Islington and Camden.

Cllr Convery said: “There is a belief around Islington among some young people that if you’re on a moped you’re immune from police, but officers will pursue suspects following all the safety guidelines that are set out.

“Police helicopters are also adept at following criminals on mopeds.”


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