Leeds & West Yorkshire

Huddersfield house fire: Murder accused seen 'running away'

Shahid Mohammed and scene of fire Image copyright West Yorkshire Police/Fire Service
Image caption Shahid Mohammed denies eight counts of murder an one count of arson intent to endanger life

A man accused of murdering eight people in a house fire was seen "running away" from the scene moments after the attack, a court heard.

Shahid Mohammed is accused of killing five children, their mother, uncle and grandmother in Birkby, Huddersfield, in 2002.

Prosecutors at Leeds Crown Court allege Mr Mohammed carried out the attack with other men as part of a family dispute.

He fled to Pakistan in 2003 and was extradited back to the UK last year.

The court heard the defendant and another man, Shaied Iqbal, had driven in the early hours of 12 May towards the property, allegedly carrying petrol bombs in the back of the Nissan Micra.

Alistair MacDonald QC, prosecuting, said a witness had later seen the pair among four men wearing "cream or white latex gloves" and running away from the house.

The prosecutor said that after getting back into the car, Iqbal was described as being "very happy and was smiling", and Mr Mohammed said to him: "Did you see the way it went up?"

Jurors had previously been told that in a 2003 trial, Iqbal was convicted of eight counts of murder, while Nazar Hussain and Shakiel Shazad were both found guilty of eight counts of manslaughter in relation to the fire.

'Persistent hatred'

The court heard it is believed the target of the attack had been Mohammed Ateeq-Ur-Rehman, who died in the fire.

The prosecution said Mr Ateeq had allegedly been targeted because he had played an "active part" in maintaining a relationship between Mr Mohammed's sister, Shahida Younis, and her husband, Saud Pervez.

"The defendant and his family were deeply unhappy about that relationship," said Mr McDonald.

"The prosecution say that this defendant was at the forefront of the disapproval of the relationship between his sister and Saud.

"He had a direct, close and persistent hatred of what had happened. Because it was his sister, it was highly personal so far as he was concerned."

Mr MacDonald said a fire expert had investigated the property following the blaze and found there were "two separate areas of origin" of the blaze; one in the lounge and one in the hallway.

Jurors heard petrol bombs made from milk bottles were thrown through the double-glazed lounge window, while the hallway fire was caused by petrol being poured in through the letterbox and ignited.

'Spiralled out of control'

After the conclusion of the prosecution's opening of the case, jurors heard briefly from Abbas Lakha QC, defending, who said they would have to set aside any "strong emotions" evoked by the trial.

He said of the defendant: "Was he part of a plan to kill or cause really serious harm?

"Or was he, as the defence say, caught up in events that spiralled out of control?"

Mr Lakha said Mr Mohammed had thought the plan was simply to set fire to Ateeq's car on the night of the deaths, with the defendant acting as a lookout.

He argued the defendant played no role in the arson and deaths which eventually followed that night.

Mr Mohammed denies eight counts of murder and a single count of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.

The trial continues.

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