UK police face questions over road deaths of 2 teens that sparked Cardiff riot

Council workers clear debris from the area immediately around a car that was set alight in Ely, Cardiff, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (PA via AP)

Several dozen youths pelted police with objects and set cars and trash bins ablaze in Cardiff in local unrest that erupted after two teenagers died in a road crash, officials said Tuesday.

Police said they were supporting the bereaved families and arresting the rioters — but faced questions about whether officers’ actions contributed to the fatal crash. Two teenage boys, ages 15 and 16, died in a crash involving an electronic bicycle in the Ely district of the Welsh capital on Monday evening, police said.

The South Wales force said “large-scale disorder” broke out after officers were called to the scene.

Chief Superintendent Martyn Stone said the force had received video footage showing a police van following an e-bike in the area minutes before the crash. But he said there were no police vehicles on the street when the crash occurred.

He said the force had referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which investigates deaths in which police may be involved.

Scenes livestreamed on social media Monday night showed dozens of people, many wearing hoods or ski masks, milling around while others threw objects and shot off fireworks at a line of police officers with riot shields blocking one end of the street.

A car burns after being set on fire, on Highmead Road, Ely, in Cardiff, after a crash following a serious road traffic collision on Snowden Road in Ely in Cardiff, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (Bronwen Weatherby/PA via AP)

A fire was burning and a helicopter could be heard hovering overhead. Shortly before midnight, a car was set on fire and burned fiercely, while a second vehicle was overturned and set ablaze.

The mayhem continued into the early hours of Tuesday, and at one point police officers were stationed outside Ely Police Station after suggestions it could be targeted.

Stone said 15 officers were injured, with 11 needing hospital treatment. He said police had made “a number” of arrests.

Resident John Urquhart said tensions rose in the area when police failed to tell local people what had happened.

“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,” he said.

“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.”