Birmingham riot deaths were 'terrible accident'

(From left) Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir died in hospital

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Eight men have been found not guilty of murdering three friends during last summer's riots in Birmingham.

Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, died on 10 August after being hit by a car in Winson Green.

Appealing for calm after the verdicts, Mr Justice Flaux told Birmingham Crown Court: "On any view, this has been a terrible case - a tragic and pointless loss of three young lives.

"However, by their verdicts the jury have decided that this was not a deliberate killing, that there was no plan to kill these three young men.

"The jury have decided that this was a terrible accident."

CCTV footage of the crash had formed the centre piece of the prosecution, with the prosecution claiming it showed an orchestrated three-car "chariot charge" which had been planned minutes before.

But the eight defendants denied there had been any such plan.

'Utter rubbish'

The jury was told the CCTV footage could not in itself be regarded as proof of murder, but the Crown pointed to other circumstantial evidence which it claimed supported its case.

Forensic officers at the scene after the collision The deaths came amid a series of riots in English cities

Prosecutors said the destruction of a mobile phone, CCTV film of vehicle movements in nearby streets and a hand signal from one of the cars was evidence of a plan hatched during a three-minute "window" before the deaths.

But this was described as implausible speculation by the three men driving the cars, Ian Beckford, 30, of Quinton, Adam King, 24, of no fixed address; and Joshua Donald, 27, of Ladywood.

The men and their passengers described the allegations of a murderous plan as "ridiculous" and "utter rubbish".

The crowd on the streets had gathered to protect local businesses and homes that had been targeted by looters the previous evening.

Defence lawyer Paul Lewis QC had told the court the collision happened when the three cars involved came "under serious attack" from the crowd.

The defence also claimed the crowd were masked and armed with bricks, sticks and, in one case, a sword.

'Just frightened'

Mr Beckford, who was driving the Mazda which hit the men, had told jurors only a "monster" would have deliberately driven at them.

"I was just frightened, I just wanted to get past the group, that's all I wanted to do," he said.

"I could not just drive my car into people and kill them. I haven't got it in me to do something like that.

"I wouldn't do something like that, not in a million years I wouldn't."

Flowers and candles at the scene The deaths shocked the community

Kitchen fitter Everton Graham, 30, who had been a passenger in the Mazda, had also dismissed the Crown's claims of a plan when he appeared in the witness box.

Mr Graham, a father-of-one from Handsworth, was among the eight men cleared of murder.

He told prosecutor Timothy Spencer QC: "I don't know these people.

"I have never met them in my life - you have put us all in jail and charged us with murder."

Mr Lewis had urged jurors to set aside their emotions and try the case with "objective and unbiased consideration".

"It was a tragedy but it was an accident nonetheless," he said.

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