A gang of boys and girls, most no older than 15, and some apparently as young as eight, broke into a row of shops in Bethnal Green, in the East End. As they left carrying piles of clothes, a police car drove past. It did not stop.
Forty minutes after the first 999 calls were made, two police vans arrived at the scene, already too late.
On a night of untold destruction that left businesses and homes across the city in flames, it counted as a small incident. But the detail said so much about how life in Britain's capital city had changed over the course of the past four days. As rioters looted and burned their way through London's shopping centres and high streets for a third successive night, Scotland Yard's 6,000 street officers were hopelessly outmanoeuvred. In many cases, they were simply outnumbered.
When they eventually arrived at riot scenes in force, such as during Monday night's first clashes in Hackney, the police were forced to retreat as youths bombarded them with bottles and stones and set cars ablaze. Not even the deployment of armoured vehicles to protect neighbourhoods such as Clapham in the south and Ealing to the west could prevent the destruction from spreading.