A SHOPKEEPER from Peckham, south London, has gone into hiding after protests erupted over a video surfaced of him “choking” a female customer when an argument broke out over a refund.
Sohail Sindho said he was “forced” to pull his three sons out of school following growing protests at his Peckham Hair and Cosmetics store.
The encounter between Sindho and the young black woman, on Monday (11), showed him putting his hands around her throat and her screaming for someone to call the police.
The next day, hundreds of protesters called for his business to be closed down as they stood outside his store with placards with messages such as “Keep your hands off black women”, “Our investment ends here” and “Stop the violence against women”. Another set of demonstrators arrived outside the store the following day to continue their calls for action.
The 45-yearold told the MailOnline he regretted putting his hands on the woman in the “heat of the moment”, but wasn’t trying to choke her. He said he was trying to restrain her as she was hitting him with her shopping basket.
“If it wasn’t for my wife and three children I would walk right to the shop and out to the street and talk to the people, because I am very sorry about what happened,” said Sindho.
“I want them to know that I was only trying to restrain her. I didn’t mean to put my hands around her throat, and it was only for a few seconds. I do agree that I should not have done that. But I was trying to protect myself as she was hitting me as the video shows.”
He added the woman was trying to leave with products she had not paid for after being denied a refund.
“We do not give refunds; we exchange items or give a credit note. So she grabbed some stuff (three packs of hair with a total value of £24) from the shelf and tried to leave,” said Sindho.
Sindho dismissed claims by some that the incident was racially motivated.
“Some people have said that it might have been racial because I am Pakistani and she is a black lady. That is absolutely not the truth,” he said. “I want you to know that 99 per cent of my customers are people of colour.
“They are like my family. I don’t know what being racist means. I live and work in a multicultural place, and I am happy here and so are my family.”
The 31-year-old customer was arrested on suspicion of assault and shoplifting and bailed pending further investigation. Sindho said he did not want police to press charges against her. He has also been interviewed under caution.
“I am hoping that I can meet with her and we can shake hands and reach a peaceful conclusion. I have two college degrees and am not a simple man. I have friends from as far as China and I don’t see people’s colour. You could say that I am colour blind,” said Sindho.
Detective chief superintendent Seb Adjei-Addoh, local policing commander for Southwark, said: “We continue to examine various clips of footage that depict small sections of the wider incident and are working to establish what offences were committed and by whom.”
“My officers will be patrolling Rye Lane today to provide reassurance to the community – I urge anyone who is worried to speak with their local policing team or with officers on patrol.”