Innocent man slain despite repeated police calls
A VIGILANTE who killed an innocent man he wrongly believed was a paedophile has been jailed for life for his "act of murderous injustice". Police have admitted that they failed to protect the victim despite his repeated pleas.
Lee James (24) repeatedly stamped on the head of his neighbour Bijan Ebrahimi, a 44-year-old disabled man, inflicting fatal injuries. Mr Ebrahimi was then set alight and his burnt body was found 100 yards from his home in Bristol.
Mr Ebrahimi, an Iranian national, had repeatedly contacted police, complaining that he was the victim of anti-social behaviour and was being unfairly targeted by his neighbours.
Just hours before his death on July 14, he had begged officers to help, telling them he did not feel safe in his own home. But his requests for help from Avon and Somerset Constabulary went unanswered, Bristol Crown Court heard.
The fatal attack came three days after he had been arrested "for his own safety" following complaints that he had been taking pictures of children.
He was released without charge and returned home that evening, but in the early hours of July 13 he emailed the police duty officer, saying he feared for his safety. The message was not read until after his death.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation has led to four constables, a sergeant and an inspector being served with notices of gross misconduct.
Chief Constable Nick Gargan issued an apology, saying: "Mr Ebrahimi was someone who deserved the protection of all of us and we are very sorry about what happened to him."
He said he could not comment specifically on the police response as an investigation was under way, but acknowledged there had been "a collective failure on the part of statutory agencies and others to protect Mr Ebrahimi".
Sentencing James after he had admitted murder, the judge told him he would serve a minimum term of 18 years for the "act of murderous injustice".
He sentenced James's next-door neighbour, Stephen Norley (25) to four years in prison for assisting an offender by "burning the body of a man you knew to be murdered".
During the hearing, the court was shown footage filmed by Mr Ebrahimi of James bursting into his flat and shouting at him, telling him: "Take pictures of me and I'll f*** you up."
Mr Ebrahimi is heard saying: "Get out of my house."
Prosecutor Andrew Langdon QC told the court: "Mr Ebrahimi used to take pictures and video films of his neighbours from his own property in a way which offended them.
"It is clear he felt under siege and explained himself to the police as filming to gather evidence of the behaviour of his neighbours, which he found objectionable.
"Some of them alleged he was filming their children. This was derived by some to accusations of paedophilia. There is in fact no evidence whatsoever to support this claim."
Mr Ebrahimi's sister, Manizhah Moores said: "The question that must be answered is whether Bijan's death could have been avoided had he been afforded the protection from the authorities he deserved." (© Daily Telegraph, London)