A SOUTHEND businessman is being sued for £800,000 after a pawn broker claimed his builders stole valuable stock during the London riots.

John Symons, 51, of Royal Terrace, Southend, is one of six directors being sued by Stephen Moore - owner of Paradise Gems in Tottenham High Road, reports the Evening Standard.

Mr Moore claims the demolition company Squibb Group Ltd, of which Mr Symons is a director, is responsible for its workers who were hired to clear the property after it was destroyed by fire in the 2011 riots.

The 63-year-old believes the workmen looted six safes filled with valuables, cracking open two and making off with another four entirely.

He is suing Squibb for £800,000 in compensation.

The case is currently being heard at the High Court where Squibb Group Ltd deny its employees stole the missing safes or broke open the damaged safes and stole the contents.

The court was told Paradise Gems had been in business for more than 20 years before it was destroyed by fire on the first night of four days of unrest in August 2011.

The court heard Mr Moore claims at least one of the safes which was raided showed evidence of burning on the outside but not the inside suggesting it was opened after the fire had been extinguished.

He also believes CCTV footage showing a cabinet in a JCB excavator was probably one of his metal safes.

Squibb, which is based in Stanford-le-Hope, denies any liability for the loss of goods and suggested the possibility the safes were opened or removed by rioters.

The company claims vandals and rioters could have brought tools with them to damage the safes and also disputes the claim the cabinet in the JCB excavator was a safe.

The compensation claim will be decided after a full hearing of the case next month.