IN the first of five features, we re-tell the shocking story of the weekend in June 2001, which rocked the town to its core.

IT STARTED with a stabbing in Daneshouse. Then a taxi driver was assaulted with a hammer.

Before long, it had spiralled out of control.

Homes were petrol bombed and families attacked. The Duke of York pub was burned down.

A weekend of unprecedented violence on the streets of Burnley saw 200-strong gangs of whites and Asians clashing with police.

Images of petrol bombs being hurled at officers, yobs being charged by police and people lying bloodied and injured were broadcast around the globe as racial violence devastated East Lancashire.

The long hot summer of 2001 had already seen riots in Oldham.

In Burnley, the trouble was blamed on racists exploiting a series of minor incidents that had happened across the town.

In the aftermath of the violence, much of the focus was on racial tensions in the town being the root of the trouble.

But the official reports into the three nights of violence cited the town’s problems with drugs, crime, education, housing, environment, transport and health as the main causes of the trouble.

Wild rumours of the extent of the racial violence at the time increased much of the tension.

Most of the speculation - including that of an Asian woman having her burka ripped off - was completely unsubstantiated.

The fact that Burnley was seen as a segregated town, with distinct white and Asian areas, was used to fuel trouble.

So too were feelings in both communities that public money was being spent on rejuvenating the other areas more than their own.

Even a fight outside a nightclub at 2am on Saturday, June 23, which was pointed as one of the sparks of the trouble, was later found to be in no way race related, in fact involving just Asian youths.

One of the defining images of the weekend was an incident on the Monday when community leader Shahid Malik was injured as he was arrested.

He was pictured on the front page of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph with blood pouring from a head wound appealing for calm, along with his father Rafique, the borough’s deputy mayor.

The weekend of riots began with three incidents, which all took place in the early hours of the Saturday.

Firstly there was the nightclub violence. Then a fight outside a house in Francis Street, Daneshouse, when a white man was stabbed in an argument with Asian neighbours.

Then, at 5am, apparently in revenge for the Francis Street incident, an Asian taxi driver was attacked with a hammer in Colne Road by a white gang.

Wild rumours spread around town about the seriousness of this attack, including some reports that the driver had been killed and that the Ghosia Mosque was under threat.

Whatever the catalyst on the night, official reports afterwards said much of the deeper cause for the riots was a turf war between rival drug dealers.

And the level of violence seemed to indicate people involved who were ingrained in criminal behaviour.

As matters escalated throughout the weekend there were dozens of incidents which culminated in Yorkshire Street being barricaded by police.

Officers also stormed pubs, while a human wall of riot police along Colne Road separated white and Asian gangs before the Duke of York was firebombed on the Sunday night.

There had been major incidents in dozens of locations across the town.

As the trouble continued taxis were taken off the streets, people were warned to stay indoors and police from across the county were called in to calm the violence.

From the Monday, order was restored as the mobs tired and dispersed, although there were sporadic incidents throughout the week.

Police raided one home and found 70 petrol bombs.

In total 157 people were arrested.

More than 100 separate crimes were recorded by police with most of those involved being aged 21 to 31.

At the time in June 2001, fears were high that the explosion in tensions could become a regular occurrence.

Those fears proved unfounded but the Burnley Riots left an indelible mark on the town which some say has still not been removed.

TOMORROW: We spend a day at the main scenes of the riots, Duke Bar and Burnley Wood, and find out what life there is like for residents in 2011.