Inside the murder of disabled man Bijan Ebrahimi who was beaten and set on fire by neighbours in false paedo witch hunt

18 mins read

LEE James shouted “have some of that” as he repeatedly stamped on Bijan Ebrahimi’s head in a torturous attack which would kill him.

Bijan’s lifeless body was then dragged out into the street where it was doused in white spirit and set on fire — the flames were still burning by the time emergency services arrived.

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Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten to death and set on fire outside his home in Bristol in 2013[/caption]

For seven years, 44-year-old Bijan Ebrahimi had reported death threats and racial abuse from his neighbours.

But the disabled Iranian refugee’s calls for help weren’t taken seriously until the day he was savagely beaten to death and burned on a Bristol council estate in 2013.

Two police officers were jailed and another two were booted from the force in the wake of the horrific murder.

Bijan The Channel 5 documentary looks at how Bijan came to be beaten to death despite repeatedly telling cops his life was in danger

Murdered By A Mob – The Killing of Bijan Ebrahimi, airs a year on from the police killing of George Floyd.

The Channel 5 film explores in forensic detail the days leading to the brutal murder, exposing the disastrous oversights of police and council officials who failed to protect an innocent asylum seeker.

‘It looked like a log’

Officers who arrived at the scene of Bijan’s murder say they’ll never forget the sight — or the smell — of his smouldering remains.

PC Hen Staveley-Brown, now retired, recounts the horrific moment in the new film.

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Hen Staveley-Brown was a police officer at the time of Bijan’s murder[/caption]

“When we turned up, the paramedics had used a fire extinguisher on the body,” she says.

“I put my torch onto a smoking area and realised it was a body, so unrecognisable that it looked like a log. 

“And I immediately raced round to Bijan’s flat. I had a heart-dropping moment when I saw his door wide open. The water was still dripping from the flowers on his hanging baskets. 

“And it was horrible because you just knew that this was somebody’s life. I didn’t know if he’d been burnt alive, and it’s haunted me ever since.”

Twisted paedophile rumour

Bijan’s nightmare ordeal began with a twisted false rumour.

Single man Bijan, whose back problems meant he was registered disabled, was rehoused following accusations that he was a paedophile after residents at his former home organised a petition to have him moved.

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Bijin suffered racist abuse for year before he was beaten to death[/caption]

But council chiefs simply shifted him a few miles up the road where the same vicious rumours and wild accusations followed to his new home in Capgrave Crescent, Brislington, south Bristol.

Fearing for his safety, harmless Bijan called cops 78 times to ask for help after being threatened and racially abused.

But residents claim the complaints had nothing to do with racism.

“He would complain about anything,” says Tam McSevney, who lived opposite Bijan at the time of his murder.

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Tam McSevney says Bijan constantly complained about the behaviour of his neighbours[/caption]

“He complained about somebody’s music. He’d complain about the kids playing football, making noise and damaging his plant pots.

“It’s a communal garden, kids are going to be kids. He even complained about my dog.

“The only reason that people never got on with him is because he was argumentative and uncooperative. He was a pest.

“There are no better words to describe him. It was not because of where he came from or the colour of his skin or anything else, it was because of his behaviour.”

Mob baying for blood

As Bijan’s neighbours’ animosity towards him grew, the false paedophile rumour soon turned into a violent witch hunt.

In July 2013, Bijan filmed neighbour Lee James drinking beer while playing with his young daughters — it would later emerge he was actually taking pictures to document harassment he was receiving.

Spotting him, Lee wrongly believed that Bijan had been recording his children and burst into Bijan’s flat.

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Bijan’s camera captured the moment Lee James burst into his flat in the days before the murder[/caption]

Bijan filmed the angry confrontation in his kitchen, in which Lee can be seen threatening to “f**k him up”.

After the incident, Bijan dialled 999 and two police officers, PC Leanne Winter and PC Helen Harris, arrived to find Lee crying with anger and frothing at the mouth.

But it was Bijan who they arrested for breaching the peace.

When he was released from custody the following day, he made 12 calls to the police non-emergency number 101 as a mob surrounded his home accusing him of being a paedophile.

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Lee James, right, and Stephen Norley set fire to Bijan’s body after the killing[/caption]

His pleas for help were ignored.

Lee beat Bijan to death before taking the body into the street and setting it on fire with the help of another neighbour, Stephen Norley.

Lee was jailed for life, while Stephen was jailed for four years.

Force failings

The sickening crime sparked outrage from those demanding to know why Bijan had been ignored.

A serious case review and an independent investigation were launched, which found evidence of institutional racism in the way that police responded.

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Bijan in a police custody suite – he made many reports to police before he was murdered[/caption]

Officers Helen Harris and Leanne Winters were sacked from Avon and Somerset Police.

PC Kevin Duffy was jailed for 10 months and PCSO Andrew Passmore for four months for misconduct in a public office.

The judge at their 2016 Bristol Crown Court trial said there had been “wider failings” by the force before Bijan’s death and that the two disgraced cops had “betrayed” the public’s trust.

But a defiant Kevin Duffy thinks he was unfairly treated.

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Kevin Duffy was jailed for 10 months for misconduct in a public office for ignoring Bijan’s calls for help[/caption]

“I’d been wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of something I didn’t do,” Duffy, now 57, says in the film. “I was most definitely scapegoated.

“They [Avon & Somerset Police] have got it so wrong.

“To assume what happened was because of race is wrong. There were far too many assumptions being made about a white man in a police uniform being racist.

“That’s just too easy and an unthinking way of dealing with anything.

“And what has happened to me is very, very dangerous for anybody who works in any public service.”

Suicidal thoughts

Married father of two Duffy, a former community beat manager for Brislington, told how his life fell apart following the murder and his subsequent misconduct trial.

He says he even contemplated taking his own life once he was released from prison.

“I could not believe what they had done,” Duffy says of Bijan’s killing. “They burnt the body. I thought, why, why, why do that? 

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Bijan’s home and hanging plants which were his pride and joy[/caption]

“It was like a desecration that has stayed with me. I carry it around every single day and most of the nights as well.

“My whole professional identity and to a large extent my personal identity was just killed in that moment.

“Prison itself was difficult, but I’ve endured difficult before, I can do difficult, but it’s the emotional impact of it all.

“After I came of out of prison, I would stare at trees whilst out running and would start visualising and planning which tree I would hang myself from.”

‘An act of race hatred’

Tony Murphy, the Ebrahimi family solicitor, is scathing about the way Bijan was treated by police.

“Bijan looked to PC Duffy as the local beat manager to protect him from this harassment, to protect him, for example, against Lee James storming into his house again and threatening him or threatening to kill him,” he says.

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Tony Murphy believes Bijan’s murder was an act of ‘race hatred’[/caption]

“The harassment continued; no help was forthcoming.

“Police officers took a very unfavourable view of Bijan. He was seen as a problem.

“And instead of supporting the victim of sustained repeat race discrimination, Bijan was penalised and left unprotected, despite the long history of race hate crime he had suffered.

“I think the murder of Bijan, including the violent immolation and desecration of his body, was an act of race hatred.”

Matt Dawkins, a case worker who supported Bijan in his role with SARI (Stand Against Racism & Inequality) agrees.

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Matt Dawkins says Bijan was racially abused on numerous occasions[/caption]

“Bijan was subject to racial abuse,” Dawkins says. ”He was called ‘p**i’. He was called a paedophile. They would throw stones at his plants, break the pots.

“They would leave rubbish on his doorstep, beer cans, that sort of thing. They’d gather late at night right outside his front door, get drunk there. It would be a constant barrage. 

“As an institution, the police can be very defensive and will identify scapegoats at lower ranks if possible.

“People at the bottom of the tree have carried the can for what is definitely an institutional problem.

“There are others who bear responsibility. There are sergeants and inspectors involved up to their eyeballs, but that never came out.”

Institutional raicsm

What did come out of the independent review was damning.

The probe found “evidence of both discriminatory behaviour and institutional racism on the part of Bristol City Council and Avon & Somerset constabulary”.

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Avon and Somerset Police was heavily criticised for its handling of Bijan’s case[/caption]

But it found no evidence of racism on the part of any individual.

A Bristol City Council spokesman said: “Our priority is to make Bristol a safe place for all people seeking sanctuary and to create an environment in which they can feel welcomed.

“This was a tragic case that should never have happened. We fully accept the council’s role in failing Mr Ebrahimi and his family, and we fully accepted the findings of the 2017 multi-agency review.

“Following this, a task group was set up to ensure all partners take on board the lived experienced of disabled asylum seekers.

“We have worked with the police, local hate crime prevention agency SARI, and equality and diversity specialists to deliver race awareness training across the council and the development of new strategies and processes and practices.

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Bijan’s murder has been described as a ‘tragedy’ by the police and council[/caption]

“We are determined that Bijan’s legacy ensures every community feels safe and welcomed by the city.”

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation concluded that the collective failings of Avon & Somerset Police showed “the hallmarks of racial bias, conscious or unconscious”.

A spokesman for Avon & Somerset Police said: “The murder of Bijan Ebrahimi was a tragedy and we fully accept the policing response was wholly inadequate and we failed to protect him.

“We wasted no time in implementing substantial changes and a recent report found that our force ‘responds well to incidents involving vulnerable people and works effectively with other agencies to protect them’.

This film explores what allowed this barbaric, medieval-like act to happen in 21st century Britain

Elliot Reed, Executive Producer at Zeppelin Films

“We’re now recognised as a leading force in the use of data analytics which has transformed the way we work.

“Had we been able to use this approach in 2013, Bijan would have been identified as one of our most vulnerable victims, triggering the level of safeguarding he needed.”

Filmmakers behind the new documentary were shocked by the sheer brutality in Bijan’s case.

“Those who knew Bijan acknowledge he was different; some remember a habitual complainer and a difficult character, others a troubled man and a victim,” says Elliot Reed, Executive Producer at Zeppelin Films.

“But Bijan didn’t deserve to die. This film explores what allowed this barbaric, medieval-like act to happen in 21st century Britain. 

“Two police officer were jailed and two dismissed. The IPCC found ‘hallmarks of racial bias’ in the police and a review found evidence of ‘institutional racism’ in the council and police.

“This is a twisting, turning story that exposes a dark heart developing in Britain’s communities and it goes out around the year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”

Murdered By A Mob: The Killing of Bijan Ebrahimi airs on Channel 5 on 19th May at 9pm

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