Dispute led to eight deaths in petrol bomb attack on home, court hears
A bitter dispute led to the deaths of eight members of the same family when their home was hit by petrol bombs and set alight as they slept, a court has heard.
Prosecutors allege that Shahid Mohammed, 37, became involved in the killing of five children and three adults in the blaze at the property in Birkby, Huddersfield, in 2002 as a result of a grudge that he had been “pursuing vigorously”.
A jury at Leeds Crown Court heard on Wednesday how the eight people that died in the fire were all members of the Chisti family.
The court was told that the defendant was allegedly one of several men “who were involved in making arrangements for and setting this fire”, but that he had skipped bail prior to a trial in 2003 and fled to Pakistan.
Mohammed, of no fixed abode, reacted angrily when his sister, Shahida, became involved in a relationship with a man named Saud, who he did not approve of, prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said.
The court heard how one member of the Chisti family, Mohammed Ateeq-Ur-Rehman, known as Ateeq, had played an “active part” in the maintaining of their relationship, and was probably the target of the attack.
Mr MacDonald told jurors: “In the early hours of the 12th of May 2002 – and I mean that, 2002 – a fire was deliberately started at Osborne Road, Birkby, in Huddersfield.
“In the course of the fire, no fewer than seven people died of which five were children, one of whom was a baby.
“An eighth occupant and family member died in the immediate aftermath of this fire, and as a direct result of it.”
He explained to jurors how “petrol bombs” were thrown into the home while petrol, believed to have been poured into the house through the front-door letterbox using a container with a nozzle, was ignited.
Mr MacDonald added: “The effect of that, given that the stairs were very close to the front door, is that all those who were upstairs were overwhelmingly likely to be trapped on the upper floors by the fire that rapidly developed once the petrol had been ignited.”
The prosecutor told jurors that those in the upper part of the property were “overwhelmed by noxious gases from the fire, so that they had no chance to escape”.
Those who died were Nafeesa Aziz, 35, and her daughters Tayyaba Bootall, three, Rabiah Bootall, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, five, Aneesa Nawaz, two, and six-month-old Najeebah Nawaz.
Miss Aziz’s brother, Ateeq, 18, also died in the fire, and their mother, Zaib-un-Nisa, 54, died a week later in hospital.
The court was told how Zaib-un-Nisa had been the “head of the family”, and died from head injuries sustained when she jumped from the property in order to escape the blaze.
Of Ateeq, Mr MacDonald said: “The prosecution say that his offence, in the eyes of this defendant, was that he played an active part in the continuation of the relationship between Saud and Shahida.”
The prosecutor told jurors that the couple had set up home in Newcastle, but were forced to move towards Surrey after being the subject of repeated animosity as a result of their relationship
The jury were told that a trial in 2003 led to the convictions of three men – Shaied Iqbal, Shakiel Shazad and Nazar Hussain – for their roles in the fire, with Iqbal being convicted of murder and the other two of manslaughter.
The prosecutor said: “The defendant was not one of those who stood trial.
“That’s because he had jumped his bail during the course of the investigations into the fire, he then made his way to Pakistan before he could be put on trial.
“He is before you now, these many years later, because he was relatively recently extradited from Pakistan.”
The prosecutor said: “So it is that, 17 years after this fire and the deaths resulting from it, he faces a jury in an English court.”
Mohammed denies eight counts of murder and a single count of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.
The trial continues.