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London riots spread to northern cities as police issue stark warnings [VIDEO]

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In England’s second most populous city, Birmingham, where the English cricket team is due to start a five-day test match against India today, three people died after being hit by a car when reportedly trying to defend local shops in the Winson Green area from looters. Police said a murder inquiry had been launched and more than 100 arrested in the West Midlands.

Despite the looting and arson in other cities, London – which endured the worst of the violence over the previous three nights – was calm with only isolated pockets of trouble.

IN PICTURES: Britain riots

More than 16,000 police officers backed up by mounted police, dog teams, and helicopters provided the show of strength promised by Prime Minister David Cameron after arriving back from holiday on Tuesday.

Just 24 hours after widespread riots, looting and arson, potential flashpoints were eerily quiet with few people on the streets.

In Clapham Junction, south London, where the previous night rioters had smashed shops and set fire to property, police guarded barriers on no-through roads with pubs quieter than usual and commuters from the nearby railway station – the UK’s busiest – scurrying home.

Police presence: Too little too late?

“It’s good to see so many police on the streets, but where were they last night when everything was going off?" asks lawyer Samantha Jones, who lives in the area. "People were definitely fearful last night about what happened and frightened. This area is normally really buzzy this time of night, but not tonight. I don’t know whether they’re still scared or intimidated by all the police but people seem to just want to go home … like me.”

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