Leeds & West Yorkshire

Birkby house fire deaths: Arsonist Shahid Mohammed jailed for life

Shahid Mohammed Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Shahid Mohammed was extradited from Pakistan in October

A man who murdered eight members of the same family when he burned down their home with petrol bombs 17 years ago has been jailed for life.

Shahid Mohammed, 37, fled to Pakistan after carrying out the attack in Huddersfield in 2002 with other men as part of a family feud.

It left five children dead, along with their mother, uncle and grandmother.

Mohammed was found guilty of eight counts of murder and has been jailed for a minimum term of 23 years.

He was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.

The family were asleep in their home in Osborne Road, Birkby, when petrol was poured through the letterbox and petrol bombs were put through the window in the early hours of 12 May 2002.

Mohammed, who was extradited to the UK last year, claimed he had "only been the lookout" for the attack throughout his five-week trial.

But the court heard he carried out the petrol bombing because of a row over his sister Shahida Younis being in a relationship with Saud Pervez, of whom her family did not approve.

Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption (L-R) Rab Nawaz Khan, father of the five children who died in the fire in Huddersfield, with Ateeqa Nawaz, Rabia Batool, Nafeesa Aziz (the children’s mother) and Tayyaba Batool

The eight family members who died in the fire:

  • Nafeesa Aziz, 35
  • Her five daughters - Tayyaba Batool, three, Rabiah Batool, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, five, Aneesa Nawaz, two, and Najeeba Nawaz, six months
  • Her brother - Mohammed Ateeq-ur-Rehman, 18
  • Their mother - Zaib-un-Nisa, 54

Judge Mr Justice Robin Spencer was visibly upset as he passed sentence at Leeds Crown Court.

He told Mohammed: "You have got a wife and children in Pakistan. You have enjoyed the very things you have robbed others of."

He added: "There was horrific mental and physical suffering endured by all eight victims before death.

"One witness spoke of seeing someone upstairs banging on the window with the flames behind.

"The grandfather who was rescued could hear the children screaming upstairs."

Image caption Members of the family described the killing of their relatives as the "most despicable of all crimes"

Mohammed took part in the attack with Shaied Iqbal, who was convicted of eight counts of murder at a trial in 2003.

He was investigated by police at the time of the fire but skipped bail and fled to Pakistan.

He remained on the run until he was tracked down and detained in the country in 2015 before being brought back to the UK last year.

In a statement read out at the hearing, Mohammed Shafique, one of those who survived the fire along with his father, said his family had suffered years of depression and sleepless nights since the attack.

Discussing the death of his 18-year-old sibling Mohammed Ateeq-Ur-Rehman, he said: "The sight of seeing your youngest brother and son desperately trying but failing to escape from the family home will live with us until the day we die."

Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption The family had been asleep in their home in Birkby when it was targeted

The court was told an aggravating factor in the offence was the "significant degree of planning".

Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said Mohammed would have had knowledge of the layout of the house and would have known the close proximity of the stairs to the front door would have meant little chance of escape for those inside once the fire had started.

A statement on behalf of the family paid tribute to West Yorkshire Police in tracking Mohammed down and bringing him to justice.

It added: "Now that this individual has been convicted of murder and given his cowardly attempt at trying to evade justice for well over a decade, if there is going to be any meaningful justice for our long-suffering family, we believe that the sentence of life imprisonment that this carries should mean exactly that."

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