Man is murdered after wrongly being accused of being a paedophile
Man accused of being paedophile and murdered for photographing garden vandals
A man was wrongly accused of being a paedophile, then beaten unconscious and burned to death by vigilantes after he photographed youths vandalising his hanging baskets.
By Ben Farmer2:59PM GMT 28 Oct 2013
Bijan Ebrahimi, a keen gardener, took pictures of local youths as they attacked his plants and intended to hand the photographs to police as evidence.
But instead officers were called when he was seen with the camera and he was led away for questioning as residents chanted “paedo, paedo”.
Officers realised their mistake at the police station and he was released, but rumours had already begun circulating that he was a child abuser and two days later he was beaten unconscious, dragged into the street and set on fire.
Lee James, 24, pleaded guilty to murder at Bristol Crown Court and his friend Stephen Norley, also 24, admitted assisting an offender after deciding to “take the law into their own hands”. The pair will be sentenced next month.
Both the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the local council have now launched reviews into the way the case was handled. Six police officers have been served notices of gross misconduct and three have been suspended by Avon and Somerset Police.
Mr Ebrahimi, an Iranian, was described by his family as a “loving and caring man” who had a passion for gardening at his council maisonette in Bristol.
A family statement said: “Bijan was a quiet, disabled man whose only joys in life came from his horticultural interests and his cat.
“Bijan was a caring, loving and unselfish man. He was an excellent uncle and a warm, supportive brother.”
Speaking after the hearing, Avon and Somerset Police stressed he was also an innocent man.
Martin Dunscombe, a spokesman, said: “Mr Ebrahimi was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence – breach of the peace – and after being interviewed he was released with no further action taken.
“We can categorically state he had not taken any indecent images and that nothing of concern had been found on his computer.”
Mr Ebrahimi photographed youths destroying his flower pots and baskets to pass on to the local authorities, only to be targeted by angry mobs after James told locals he had taken photos of their children.
Mr Ebrahimi was arrested and released on July 12 and murdered in the early hours of July 14.
One resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “On the Thursday evening (before his death) everyone came out and they were calling him a paedophile.
“There were about 20 people out there all having a say. They had him down as a 100 per cent paedophile.
“When the police took him away everyone was cheering. Then he got released back into that.”
Another resident added: “Whoever started those rumours now has to live with that. He wasn’t a paedophile and he’s now dead. That’s a hell of a conscience to have.”
Neighbours described how Mr Ebrahimi, 44, had a passion for the flowers and plants he grew in front of his maisonette in Bristol and that he was “always out there” tending to them.
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: “Very soon after Mr Ebrahimi’s murder, three police officers were suspended as a result of information about their conduct which came to light at an early stage of the investigation into Mr Ebrahimi’s death. Their conduct is now being investigated by the IPCC. The actions of three further officers and a number of members of police staff are also currently being investigated as part of these inquiries but they remain on normal duties.”
“We take all suggestions of misconduct and poor behaviour extremely seriously and we’re working with the IPCC to support them in whatever way we can as they carry out their investigation.
“In the meantime, we hope Mr Ebrahimi’s family can draw some comfort from the fact that the two men involved in his murder have pleaded guilty.”