Thugs ripped a century-old violin from the hands of a Morden busker, using it as a weapon during a town centre brawl.

Jerzy Siwek, 58, of Thurleston Avenue, was playing the family heirloom in Croydon when a pitched battle between more than 30 members of rival gangs erupted around him.

The precious violin, passed down through generations of Mr Siwek’s family, was used by the teenagers to batter each other as dozens of shoppers ran for cover on February 19.

Mr Siwek said: “I think it is the 100-year-old Stradivarius replica my father gave to me. I won’t know until it has been valued.”

Fellow musician Gabby Slonecka, 53, said: “We play our music once a week in Croydon. We had just finished when these people started to shout at each other.

“It got more aggressive and more violent.”

Mr Siwek added: “There were a lot of people there. They took everything, all of my equipment including the music stand. One of them took my violin and threw it.

“I do not know how much it was worth, I need to get it valued but it is irreparable. The violence was terrible, it was just disgusting.”

Mrs Slonecka said: “We were in shock, we did not know how to react. Do we look after ourselves or our stuff?

“So many people have offered their support to us that we will go back this weekend again to play. I hope we will be ok.”

One youth was brandishing what was believed to be a knife, and another was punched and kicked by a gang.

Caught on CCTV cameras, the rival gang members hurled themselves into the melee, slashing, kicking and hitting out at each other in the busy shopping street, in front of horrified women and children.

The incident was the second outbreak of youth violence in the town centre in three days, after brawling teenagers brandishing metal poles attacked each other near West Croydon station on February 17.