Bijan Ebrahimi murder: Police 'let vulnerable man down'

Bijan Ebrahimi
Image caption Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten to death before being set on fire

A man who was murdered and had his body set on fire following false rumours he was a paedophile was "let down" by the police, his sister has said.

Manisha Moores said Iranian-born Bijan Ebrahimi had come to England as a refugee in 2001 to find a better life.

He was arrested by police after he was seen taking pictures around the Bristol estate where he lived.

Avon and Somerset Police said there was no proof to back up the allegation he was a paedophile.

Ms Moores said her brother had "no doubt" that he was coming to a safe place and that he did not believe anything bad would happen to him in the UK.

Mr Ebrahimi had been suffering racial and physical abuse on the estate he lived on in the Brislington area of the city, said Ms Moores.

She added he was told he needed to provide photographic evidence to support his allegations of harassment and damage to his property.

'Hostile environment'

But in July local people believed he was inappropriately filming children and he was wrongly accused of being a paedophile.

Police were called and he was arrested on suspicion of a breach of the peace.

He was taken away as a crowd reportedly shouted and called him names.

Officers later examined his camera, videos and computers but found nothing suspicious and he was released without charge.

Avon and Somerset Police insist Mr Ebrahimi was not a paedophile and that there was absolutely nothing to stand up the allegations.

Mr Ebrahimi's sister said he returned to his house believing he would get support from the police if he needed it.

Within two days he had been beaten to death and his body set on fire after it was doused in white spirit.

Ms Moores said police should have realised he was coming back to a "hostile environment".

"Maybe Bijan wasn't understanding the tension but for people with experience like the police they should have at least explained to the people there wasn't any evidence of what they were accusing him [of]," she said.

Image caption Stephen Norley (left) admitted helping Lee James set Bijan Ebrahimi on fire

"We feel so let down by the police and other agencies and we would like to know why."

Lee James, 24, of Capgrave Crescent, Bristol, admitted his murder, at Bristol Crown Court.

Stephen Norley, 24, also of Capgrave Crescent, was originally charged with murder but that charge was dropped and he admitted assisting an offender.

Both men are due to be sentenced on Thursday.

Officers suspended

The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), is investigating the circumstances of Mr Ebrahimi's dealings with the force.

Three officers have been suspended by the force while the IPCC looks at the way it dealt with him in the days leading up to his death.

While the outcome of that investigation is yet to be published, Ms Moores said the family wanted to know exactly what happened to Mr Ebrahimi in the last couple of days of his life.

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Media captionManisha Moores: "You never, ever thought that anyone could do such a barbaric act"

"He made so many calls [to the police] and we want to know why, if he asked for help, they didn't give him the help he deserved?"

The family found out about Mr Ebrahimi's death as they waited at an airport to come home from a Spanish holiday.

She said: "It was such a terrible, terrible moment being in the airport and hearing the news.

"You never think anyone could do such a barbaric act.

"We are devastated and haven't come to terms with losing Bijan... losing someone in such a way is unimaginable."

She added: "We go as many times as we can to his grave to cry and to feel that he is there.

"We couldn't say our goodbyes to him, we couldn't see his face and we couldn't bury him in the time that our religion allows us to do - we had to wait a long time to be able to do that."

His family believe he was picked on as he lived alone, was disabled, vulnerable, and because "he was different".

"He was an easy target - it was a hate crime and [that was] obvious from some people's reaction in the last few days of his life," said Ms Moores.

"It was devastating for us to hear [the allegations] - I don't know where that had come from - he was not a paedophile.

"I hope people understand the consequences of these rumours and the allegations against innocent people and what it's going to lead to.

"They're going to regret it for the rest of their lives."

Avon and Somerset's Chief Constable, Nick Gargan, said collectively agencies and authorities had failed Mr Ebrahimi.

Ms Moores said the news left her "disappointed, frustrated and sad".

"How could anyone be failed by so many agencies?

"If they helped him find a safer place... then that could have prevented what happened to Bijan."

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