The Bentall Centre and both Marks and Spencer have been evacuated after reports of an arsonist stalking Kingston shops setting fire to clothes.

Monsoon, White Stuff and other stores have also been attacked.

Police are believed to be looking for a man aged about 40 years old.

Thousands of Christmas shoppers were forced to leave the Bentall Centre department store after the incident shortly before 1pm today.

Firefighters were called to The Bentall Centre and customers evacuated after a fire alarm was set off.

According to Kingston fire station, which has one fire truck and pump at the scene, the call came automatically from the fire alarm at Dolphin Street entrance, not from a person.

According to an eyewitness, who works nearby and was on her lunch break, there has been a fire in the Superdry store, though this has not been confirmed by firefighters.

She said that a store detective told her that a person had been going into clothing stores setting clothes on fire and then walking out.

She said: “There are clothes on fire in Monsoon. People are saying there was a fire at Superdry.

"The high street is absolutely packed loads of people.  I went round to the Fife Road entrance and a store detective told me they are not letting anyone in because of a fire.

"Then he told me that someone was setting clothes on fire then walking out. I don’t know if it is true or not but if it is that is really scary."

A worker who answered the phone in Superdry said that she could not comment but staff were dealing with an incident.

Dan Ly from White Stuff said: “We are just in the middle of dealing with something right now. We were affected. Rumour has it someone is just walking around setting fire to things. That’s all I can say.”

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