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How Wild Rumour Led a Mob to Murder An Innocent Man VIDEO


World  (tags: murder, violence, mob rule, innocent man, rumour, paedophilia )

Beatrice
- 1714 days ago - telegraph.co.uk
Guilt haunts the community where an Iranian eccentric falsely accused of being a paedophile was beaten and burned to death. In a few short months, the area of Brislington has gone from a quiet, nondescript suburb of east Bristol to one of the most notorio



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Beatrice B (112)
Monday November 4, 2013, 7:27 am
In a few short months, the area of Brislington has gone from a quiet, nondescript suburb of east Bristol to one of the most notorious neighbourhoods in the country.
It is here that on a sweltering summer night in July, a disabled Iranian man, Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, was attacked, set on fire, and left to burn to death in a front garden.
“I woke up at seven in the morning and saw them taking the body away,” said a woman living opposite the scene, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I could see his feet hanging off the end of the stretcher. I never thought something like this would happen on our doorstep. There was a burnt patch on the ground for days afterwards.”
Days before his death, youths began vandalising the flowers (left) kept by Mr Ebrahimi, a keen gardener. (SWNS)
As the eye of the media turns on this community, hanging in the air is a palpable feeling of tension, recrimination and guilt.
Residents avoid eye contact when walking in the street, and hurry indoors when people pass. The few neighbours who agreed to talk to me did so secretively, and on condition of anonymity.
Whether they are walking their dogs, riding BMX bikes or taking children to school, the local people seem isolated, burdened and even ashamed.
And with good reason; this was a very communal crime. Mr Ebrahimi met his death at the hands of two of his neighbours, both of whom lived several doors down from him in a block of council maisonettes on Capgrave Crescent.
They wrongly suspected Mr Ebrahimi of being a paedophile. On the night of July 14, a court heard, they decided to “take the law into their own hands”. Mr Ebrahimi was beaten unconscious, dragged into the street, doused in white spirit and set on fire.
Lee James, 24, a father of three, pleaded guilty to murder at Bristol Crown Court. His friend Stephen Norley, also 24 and a father of two, admitted assisting an offender after helping James to drag Mr Ebrahimi’s body from his home and fetching the white spirit to set him alight.
The pair will be sentenced on November 28. But although the murder itself was their work alone, they are far from the only guilty parties.
A woman who lives across the road from the council housing said that she and her family were so disturbed by the killing that they are moving away from the area.
“There were lots of neighbours out there watching, and the man was screaming, but nobody did anything or said anything to the police,” she said. “People in that block stuck together and kept silent. They turned a blind eye. I don’t know how anybody can just have stood back and let it happen.”
That such an appalling crime could occur on the streets of Britain in 2013 is disturbing enough. But the fact that it was carried out with the tacit support of so many members of the local community is a shocking indictment of some sections of modern British society.
 

Beatrice B (112)
Monday November 4, 2013, 7:31 am
Bristol city council and the police have attempted to portray the murder as a tragic one-off, pointing out that overall levels of crime in Bristol are falling. The statistics are indisputable. The Strategic Assessment 2012-13, which will be published shortly, shows that total crime numbers are at the lowest they have been for 12 years. Even the notorious Stapleton Road, which in 2011 was named as the most dangerous street in the country for crime, is relatively safe.
But there remain pockets of communities around the city that are close-knit, closed-minded and deeply hostile towards anybody who is “different”. To dismiss the murder as a mere anomaly is to ignore the details of the crime, which indicate that many people played a role.
According to a neighbour, who asked not to be named, Mr Ebrahimi, known locally as Ben, was a gentle eccentric devoted to his cat and who “kept himself to himself”.
He had lived in Britain for more than 10 years, and had relatives nearby. Disabled by a back problem and out of work, he spent much of his time cultivating an array of flowers outside his maisonette.
“We only saw him when he was watering his plants or calling his cat in,” the neighbour said.
For many years, Mr Ebrahimi had been the target of malicious gossip and bullying at the hands of his neighbours. “Rumours had been going round for a few years that he was a paedophile,” said a man who lived on the floor above the victim after inviting me into his sitting room, away from prying eyes.
“Whenever anybody new moved into the block, people told them to watch out for him. There was a story that he had locked a 14-year-old girl in his house and raped her. But there was never any evidence and it wasn’t true.”
Many neighbours did not take part in this abuse. But the fact remains that in all that time, nobody had the courage to intervene.
On July 11 local youths began vandalising Mr Ebrahimi’s flowers. He took photographs of them as evidence and called the police. When officers attended the scene, they were confronted by a group of about 20 neighbours who told them that Mr Ebrahimi was a paedophile and that he had been taking pictures of children.
Officers advised Mr Ebrahimi to go back into his house, but he was determined to stand his ground. He was finally arrested on suspicion of breaching the peace, and taken away while a mob chanted “paedo, paedo”.
That night, Mr Ebrahimi was released without further action. “We can categorically state he had not taken any indecent images and that nothing of concern had been found on his computer,” confirmed a spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police. When Mr Ebrahimi returned home, it was to more taunts and jeers from the neighbours. Two days later, he was dead.
According to an elderly lady who lives in a maisonette in the same block, and who asked to remain anonymous, the day of the murder had been blisteringly hot. “People were having barbecues and sitting out on the balconies,” she said. “It was a happy atmosphere. People were having water fights. But the youngsters had been drinking all day, and the name-calling got out of control. They got hot-headed. I could cope with them giving him a beating, but setting him on fire was sick.”
At 1.20am, three teenage boys who had been camping in a nearby garden heard screams and cries for help. They could see clouds of smoke, and could smell burning. Shortly afterwards they found Mr Ebrahimi’s body in a front garden in Whitmore Avenue, just over 100 yards from his home.
Given this background, it is impossible not to wonder about the evasive groups of people on Capgrave Crescent who refused to answer my questions.
Were they simply honest folk weary of media attention? Were they part of the mob, all of which have gone unpunished? Or were they the people who shouted “keep your chin up” as Norley was led to the cells?
If Mr Ebrahimi was profoundly failed by British society, his family believe that he was also failed by the authorities.
“The police should have taken especially seriously his calls for help in the days before he was murdered,” they said in a statement.
“We are gravely concerned that the actions of those men have been made possible by the failures of the police and others.” This sentiment was shared by some of the neighbours. Two days after the murder, an angry resident confronted police at the scene.
“He is dead because of you,” he shouted. “You released him into a hostile environment, and he came home to chants of 'paedo, paedo’. It’s a joke. The police should have protected him.” The Independent Police Complaints Commission has launched an investigation.
The three constables who originally went to Mr Ebrahimi’s maisonette have been suspended and served notices of potential gross misconduct charges; three other police officers involved in his detention have not been suspended but face the same charge. In addition, six civilian call handlers will be questioned to establish whether they treated Mr Ebrahimi’s cries for help with due seriousness.
Nick Gargan, the chief constable for Avon and Somerset, conceded that the police and local authorities “failed that poor man”. “The plain fact is that here was a guy who did nothing wrong,” he said.
“Admittedly he was a little different, but he was brutally murdered. We can’t escape the very clear fact that things could have been done, and should have been done, to ensure that this didn’t happen.
“Mr Ebrahimi was a distinctive and different character on the estate. He was Iranian, he had a disability, and his interests were different. I fear that his difference has cost him dear.”
Mr Gargan resisted the notion that this murder could indicate an underlying problem in the community. “Big cities will always have crime,” he said. “To draw generalised conclusions is dangerous.”
But generalised conclusions may be precisely what are needed if events of this sort are to be prevented in the future, in Bristol and elsewhere.
Both Mr Ebrahimi’s family and the police believe that in addition to his eccentricity, he was targeted because of his Iranian background. This racism, combined with paranoia of paedophilia, created a mood of toxic febrility. It must be acknowledged that most areas of Bristol are very tolerant; but it is equally important to recognise that some are quite the opposite.
Richard Hope-Hawkins is a Bristolian writer and campaigner whose partner is black. “I know a good upstanding black couple who are both in work and have two children,” he said. “They used to live in Knowle West, a few miles from where the Iranian man was killed. But they were hounded out twice because of racist abuse from local people.”
In 2009, a BBC Panorama programme, Hate on the Doorstep, sent two undercover Asian reporters to pose as husband and wife and live for two months on Bristol’s Southmead estate. They received almost daily physical and verbal abuse.
In one incident, one of the reporters, Amil Khan, was told not to walk on the pavement before being punched in the head by a man who said, “bye, bye Paki”.
Often — as in the case of Mr Ebrahimi — this racism is conflated with a fear of paedophilia, and becomes particularly toxic.
The Bristol division of the English Defence League, the far-Right street protest movement, has announced plans to hold a rally in the city in December.
Their intention is to protest two issues: the building of a mosque, and “paedophile grooming gangs in Bristol”. The underlying narrative is unmistakable, and reflects the attitudes that led to the killing of Mr Ebrahimi.
Moreover, this was not the first time that the people of east Bristol launched an attack on what they mistakenly thought was a paedophile.
In 1998, a mob of 500 rioters attacked a police station in Knowle West, three miles from Bridlington, where they wrongly thought the paedophile killer Sidney Cooke was being held. Forty-six police officers were injured.
This incident may have taken place 15 years ago, but the fact that it occurred so nearby must be significant.
Sue Mountstevens, the police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset Constabulary, has called for a public meeting following the conclusion of the IPCC investigation. “The tolerance and generosity of Bristolians is well known,” she said.
“But this is a blot on the landscape. We have to come together and work out how and why it happened. I’m going to invite the police, Bristol city council, and other organisations to show local people the facts. I’m not proud to be where I am at the moment.”
The police say they are determined to learn lessons from this tragedy. But if such murders are to be prevented in the future, these lessons must be based on an in-depth analysis of the community, and not be concerned merely with operational issues. Nobody stood up for Mr Ebrahimi in life; it is important to stand up for him now.
 

Barbara K (62)
Monday November 4, 2013, 8:04 am
What a sad and frightening story. It looks like bigotry is not just an American thing. People need to be taught to be tolerant of others. After all, we were are how God made us. We do not choose our color or where we were born, or what color our eyes would be, or what color our hair would be. Or anything else that we were born with. Without tolerance, ignorance people will just become more ignorant and just plain vicious.
 

Teresa W (782)
Monday November 4, 2013, 8:25 am
horrible
 

Past Member (0)
Monday November 4, 2013, 8:41 am
This is disgusting. The rest of this mob have to be found and prosecuted, they by their slanderous allegations have aided and abetted in this innocent man's horrific murder. I can only hope that the police will not allow The English Defence League to hold their rally to protest at the building of a mosque and the rise in paedophilia to be held in this city. As the newspaper states the inference is obvious all foreigners are paedophiles they are not. STOP THIS HATRED IMMEDIATELY.
 

Beth S (330)
Monday November 4, 2013, 9:02 am
Why vigilantism is generally not a good thing, People deserve a hearing in court. That's what makes us different from evil societies.
 

Beth S (330)
Monday November 4, 2013, 9:03 am
By the way, this kind of thing goes on in the Islamic world regularly.
 

Gillian M (218)
Monday November 4, 2013, 10:32 am
This is a one off caused by the belief that this unfortunate man was a paedophile rather than a racist act, there is nothing here to indicate anything else. It is a terrible act and the perpetrators must be punished.

No member of the community in the UK should be treated this way but, sadly, paedophilia is rife in Muslim controlled countries with little to no interest from the authorities.
 

Stan B (123)
Monday November 4, 2013, 1:02 pm
This is the kind of mob mentality we expect in Pakistan not the U.K.
 

patrica and edw jones (190)
Monday November 4, 2013, 2:52 pm
The most horrific part of this story - aside from the murder - is that people stood by and did NOTHING. Remember -'First they came for the Socialists and I did nothing'- so what will we do when they come for us? We cannot live our lives in fear and those people in Brislington can make something marvellous happen by comming together as a community and being there to support those who need it.,
 

Jav R (0)
Tuesday November 5, 2013, 7:50 am
Terrible
 
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