Two police officers dismissed over actions before death of vigilante victim


Two police officers acquitted of misconduct after the vigilante murder of a disabled man have been dismissed without notice.

Pcs Helen Harris, 40, and Leanne Winter, 38, were dismissed by an independent panel for their actions before the death of Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol in 2013.

Mr Ebrahimi, 44, was punched and kicked to death before his body was set on fire by neighbour Lee James, who wrongly believed he was a paedophile. Pc Kevin Duffy, 52, and PCSO Andrew Passmore, 56, were jailed earlier this year for 10 and four months respectively after being convicted of misconduct in a public office in connection with the murder.

PCSO Andrew Passmore (left) and police constable Kevin Duffy of Avon and Somerset Police
PCSO Andrew Passmore (left) and police constable Kevin Duffy of Avon and Somerset Police (Ben Birchall/PA)

The disciplinary process for 10 Avon and Somerset Police officers and nine police staff involved with Mr Ebrahimi's case concluded on Tuesday.

Pcs Harris, Winter and Duffy were dismissed from the force along with Passmore while police sergeant Jonathan Hill was given a final written warning.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "We failed Bijan in his hour of need and I am unreservedly sorry for the pain and heartache his family have suffered in the years since.

"It has taken a long time to reach this point and I very much regret that the constabulary has been unable to comment openly before now."

Bijan Ebrahimi's sister Manisha Moores (right) and Alex Raikes, of the campaign group Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), speak to the media
Bijan Ebrahimi's sister Manisha Moores (right) and Alex Raikes, of the campaign group Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), speak to the media (Rod Minchin/PA)

Mr Ebrahimi, an Iranian national, dialled 999 on July 11 2013 to report that James had come into his flat in Capgrave Crescent, Brislington, and headbutted him.

Pcs Winter and Harris arrived to find James crying with anger, frothing at the mouth, shouting "Paedo! I'm going to fucking kill you" and a mob outside.

The officers arrested Mr Ebrahimi for breaching the peace, with the crowd cheering and shouting "paedophile" as he was led away.

While in custody, Pc Harris told him: "All you are doing is upsetting the residents ... and antagonising them. I'm a police officer and you're a pain in the ass. Don't speak to me."

Police constable Helen Harris arrives at Bristol Crown Court
Police constable Helen Harris (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Ebrahimi was released from custody the following day, July 12, and made 12 calls to the police non-emergency number 101.

He was informed that Duffy, his local beat manager, would visit but the officer refused to speak to him.

"My life is in danger. Right now a few of my neighbours are outside and shouting and calling me a paedophile. I need to see Pc Duffy," Mr Ebrahimi told one operator.

Duffy told a supervisor: "He should be told in no uncertain terms that I will speak to him at my convenience."

He asked Passmore to conduct a "bit of a foot patrol" around Capgrave Crescent. Passmore later lied to murder detectives that he had spent an hour in the area.

Police constable Leanne Winter
Police constable Leanne Winter (Ben Birchall/PA)

On July 13, Mr Ebrahimi tried to contact Duffy and Pc Winter, and phoned asking for her at 12.12am on July 14 - about an hour before his murder.

She told a call operator: "I'm absolutely not interested in speaking to him ever."

A post-mortem examination found Mr Ebrahimi, who had problems with mobility and suffered from depression, died before he was set alight at 1.35am.

James was jailed for life for the murder while his neighbour Stephen Norley was sentenced to four years in prison for assisting an offender.

Lee James (left) and Stephen Norley
Lee James (left) and Stephen Norley (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Marsh said: "It is almost three years since Bijan's tragic and brutal murder and the intervening period has been difficult for everyone concerned; we have been unable to share the detail of the IPCC findings within our own organisation until all misconduct hearings were concluded.

"This has not deterred us however from scrutinising the events leading up to his murder from every dimension to understand what happened, what we should have done differently, and what we failed to do.

"It is a real tribute to Bijan's family that they have been able to help us in this and I would like to thank them for their courage and determination in doing so.

"We have learnt a great deal and much has changed since Bijan's dreadful murder."

Ebrahimi's sisters Manizhah Moore (centre) and Ladin Ebrahimi make a statement
(Claire Hayhurst/PA)

"Officers are faced with difficult situations and difficult decisions every day," Mr Marsh added.

"But it's clear that we had opportunities to change the tragic outcome for Bijan and we failed to take them.

"The actions of a very small number of individuals had a catastrophic effect. They fell well short of those qualities the public expect of us."

The force said that over the past three years, changes have been made in four key areas of work - system changes, culture and ethics, anti-social behaviour and vulnerability and repeat victimisation.