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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Cathy Owen & Ellie Kemp

Two boys killed in Cardiff crash before riots erupt with cars set ablaze and police attacked

Riots erupted in the streets of a Cardiff suburb on Monday evening (May 22) after police were called to the scene of a fatal car crash.

Vehicles were torched and missiles were thrown at police officers as hundreds gathered near the incident in Ely, around five miles outside Cardiff city centre. Two teenagers were killed in the crash before the mass violence broke out, police said this morning.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said this morning (Tuesday May 23) that two teens had been involved in the crash. He told BBC Radio Wales: "The start of the incident was a road traffic incident which sadly involved two teenagers and a loss of life. That's a tragedy that the police attended and were attempting to investigate when these events took place."

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Described by police as 'large-scale disorder', the riot went on for more than nine hours as fireworks were thrown and police in riot gear tried to keep the mob back.

With reporting from WalesOnline, here is everything we know so far.

Police were called to a crash where two were killed

Officers were called to the scene of a crash on Snowden Road, Ely, at 6pm. On Tuesday morning, South Wales Police said two teenage boys died in the crash.

There was a lot of speculation that there had been a police chase, but a statement from the force in the early hours of this morning said that the collision had "already occurred" when officers arrived.

Police car windows were smashed during the riot (PA)

Police then remained on the scene to “manage a large-scale disorder” into the early hours of the morning, which saw several vehicles set alight, property damaged and officers injured.

It added: "We need to ensure that this evening's collision is effectively investigated."

The police and crime commissioner for South Wales, Alun Michael, confirmed on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday morning that there had been a loss of life in the crash. He was asked if two people had died and he said that was his understanding, although he said investigations were still taking place.

Asked if two people had died, Mr Michael said: "That is my understanding. Obviously something that happens overnight is very difficult to get into precision with and police are investigating that incident and trying to assist those families involved as that is a tragedy that needs attention and a lot of sympathy."

There was no police chase

Mr Michael said there had been no police chase before the crash. He said: "There were also unfounded rumours of a police chase which was not the case and it just shows how particularly with things going around on social media which may have very little connection with the truth things can escalate very rapidly."

He said he could not yet confirm if there had been e-scooters involved in the original collision. Speaking later on the Today programme on Radio 4, he said that the crash had either involved e-scooters or off road bikes.

How the riot began

Tensions reached breaking point as hundreds of people gathered in the area where Snowden Road meets Stanway Road after the crash.

At 8.21pm, South Wales Police tweeted: "There is now a large number of officers working to manage the collision, but also to de-escalate ongoing disorder at the scene. We urge anyone involved to leave the scene immediately and ask local residents to stay away while the matter is brought to a safe conclusion."

Police cordoned off access to the scene in Ely, Cardiff (Getty Images)

Rubbish and wheelie bins were set alight as well as cars by rioters as they continued to be moved through the streets by armoured police. At 11pm, police said officers were faced with what they called a "large scale disorder"

Scenes that were livestreamed on YouTube showed young people throwing fireworks and other missiles at a line of police officers with riot shields who were blocking one end of the street.

Police, including mounted officers on horseback, were seen outside Ely police station in the early hours of Tuesday after suggestions it could be targeted.

Shortly before 3am, rioters moved down Highmead Road in Ely, followed by police who were trying to disperse them. The rioters continued to throw missiles and set cars alight. A police presence remains at the scene on Tuesday morning.

Police vehicles and cars were damaged

At least two cars were set on fire as trouble flared for hours, involving scores of youths, with some covering their faces with masks.

Several police cars were damaged and we saw one with a smashed window and broken wing mirrors.

Shortly before midnight a car was set on fire and burned fiercely, while a second vehicle was overturned and set ablaze. In a 1.10am update police said a "number of vehicles have been set alight". They added that arrests were being made but didn't say how many.

Member of public attacked and disabled woman's car attacked

A member of the public was attacked due to rioters thinking they were an undercover officer, according to one of the senior officers at the scene. People at the scene described seeing a man being shoved to the ground and kicked. He was shouting: "I'm not a fed".

Jane Palmer, the owner of a burnt out Ford Focus on Highmead Road, said she and her family watched from their window as rioters set fire to her car.

Ms Palmer said: "I'm disabled so now I'm trapped without my car. Why are they doing this? It's just stilly now."

The family attempted to stop the fire using water from their garden hose.

Police officers injured

Youths were seen throwing fireworks and other missiles at police (PA)

Crime commissioner Alun Michael said that around a dozen police officers had been injured in the violence although none seriously. He said: "We saw a dozen police officers injured last night, fortunately none of them life threatening although that is a matter of luck not intention. There were a lot of calls from members of public in the area very worried about the activities that were taking place and the events to which the police responded to quickly."

Arrests were made

Mr Michael could not confirm how many arrests had been made. He said: "I know that there were arrests and again as much clarity as possible will be given as soon as possible. I think probably it illustrates better than anything else the speed with which communications happen before proper facts can be established."

Residents appalled

John Urquhart, the general secretary of the UK Harmony Party, lives in Ely and witnessed the incident escalate from the start of the evening.

He told the PA news agency and WalesOnline that a lack of communication from police to the community may have led to the escalation of the event.

He said: "The key thing right at the start was they did not communicate with the crowd, there was no attempt to communicate with the crowd and they showed nothing but disdain for the community and acted like we didn't deserve to know what happened on our own doorstep.

"There was nobody going through the crowd crucially, I think the police really needed people to be out talking to the community and putting their minds at ease."

Mr Urquhart, who has lived in the area for the last few years, said the situation started to escalate at around 8pm.

"The vast majority of people who were stood in that street were stood there because they wanted to know what would happen next, there were a very small number of people actually doing any sort of violence," he said.

A burnt out car in the street on Tuesday morning (Ffion Lewis)

He said he is very "counter-violence" and was offering first aid to people during the evening.

"There was definitely a small group doing things, but the vast majority of other people were just watching and having that normal comradery in the street that you have when something is happening in your street and you have no control over it."

He said the community in Ely is tight-knit.

"When you start to see it in context, it's emotions that have built up and bottled up and eventually, I think the police just brought too many people or were too visible."

Police on horseback protected Ely police station

There were rumours in the early hours that rioters were going to attack Ely police station. Drone footage shows police charging people outside the police station.

The scene on Tuesday morning

The scene in Ely this morning has been described as looking like a warzone. The smouldering embers of fires last night are still in the middle of the road. Cars used to block the road are still stranded. Buses are being re routed.

The floor is still littered with breeze blocks and stones and other items that were thrown at police. The burned out remains of some of cars that were torched are still on the street.

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