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Man filmed setting fire to police vehicle admits riot and arson charge

Custody image of Matthew O'Neill
Matthew O'Neill

A 30-year-old man filmed setting fire to a police vehicle during the riot in Bristol city centre has pleaded guilty to charges of riot and arson.

Matthew O’Neill, of Patchway, South Gloucestershire, admitted both charges at Bristol Crown Court this morning (April 11), on what would have been the first day of his trial.

Footage collated and examined during our investigation into the events of Sunday 21 March 2021 showed O’Neill using lit items to set a police vehicle on fire. He used a police shield to fan the flames and wielded a chair to smash the front window of a police van already well ablaze.

O’Neill also used a police shield and baton to attack officers, as well as cause damage to the front of Bridewell Police Station.

Det Supt James Riccio said: “Matthew O’Neill engaged in some of the more serious violence and destruction which occurred on that shameful night.

“He chose to use the uncontrollable weapon of fire, showing no regard to the safety or welfare of others.

“O’Neill is the seventeenth person to be convicted of offences in connection with the riot and the change in plea is testament to the compelling visual evidence against him, meticulously collated by our team of investigators.”

O’Neill has been released on bail to attend a sentencing hearing on Monday 23 May.