Murdered refugee treated like criminal by British police: Report


Police watchdog details a string of errors by Avon and Somerset police officers over murder of Bijan Ebrahimi, who was target of hate campaign

Bijan Ebrahimi was murdered by his neighbour in July 2013 (AFP).
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Last update: 
Wednesday 5 July 2017 13:33 UTC

A disabled Iranian refugee who was beaten to death and set alight on a Bristol council estate was repeatedly failed by police who treated him differently from his neighbours, in what could be “racial bias”, a report has concluded.

Bijan Ebrahimi endured a violent seven-year campaign of hate which culminated in his murder by a vigilante neighbour in July 2013, amid false claims that he was a paedophile.

In a report released on Wednesday, the police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found that he had been treated "consistently differently from his neighbours" in what could be "racial bias, conscious or unconscious".

Ebrahimi was killed and set on fire by his neighbour Lee James three days after the refugee was arrested by police following complaints he had taken pictures of children near his home. However nothing suspicious was found and he was released without charge.

James was jailed for life after admitting the murder in November 2013. Fellow neighbour Stephen Norley, who had admitted assisting an offender, was given a four-year jail term.

The IPCC report found that Avon and Somerset police officers may have been biased against Ebrahimi because of his race.

The watchdog also revealed that the Iranian refugees made 85 calls to the police between 2007 and July 2013, when he was murdered.

In 73 of the calls, Ebrahimi reported allegations including racial abuse, criminal damage and threats to kill, but police failed to record a crime on at least 40 of those occasions. He was dismissed as a nuisance, instead of as a vulnerable victim of crime, the report said.

IPCC commissioner Jan Williams, said "Bijan Ebrahimi self-identified as a victim of race-hate crime, but was never recognised as a repeat victim of abuse who needed help.

"Instead, his complaints about abusive neighbours were disbelieved and he was considered to be a liar, a nuisance and an attention seeker."

The commissioner added: "We found evidence that Bijan Ebrahimi had been treated consistently differently from his neighbours, to his detriment and without reasonable explanation.

"Some of the evidence has the hallmarks of what could be construed as racial bias, conscious or unconscious."

Ebrahimi's sisters, Mojgan Kahayatian and Manisha Moores, said the IPCC report showed "how terrible a life he had during those last few years".

"It was so hard to see Bijan all these years suffering and his voice never listened to," they said in a statement.

The attack has sparked much soul-searching in Bristol, as residents and politicians struggled to explain how such a vulnerable man could have met so horrific an end in what is seen as a liberal city.

Avon and Somerset's police chief, Andy Marsh, said "we failed him in his hour of need".