Man who murdered five children and three adults in house fire is jailed for life

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Shahid Mohammed was found guilty of killing five children and three adults in a house fire (PA)

A man who murdered eight people in a house fire in 2002 has been jailed for life.

Shahid Mohammed, 37, must serve a minimum of 23 years after he was found guilty on Tuesday of killing five children and three adults in the blaze at the property in Birkby, Huddersfield, in 2002.

Mohammed was investigated by police at the time but skipped bail and fled to Pakistan prior to a 2003 trial in which several other people were convicted for their involvement in the incident.

He was eventually extradited back to the UK last year, and was convicted of eight counts of murder and one of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.

In a statement that was read out in court by prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC during the sentencing hearing, Mohammed Shafique, one of those who survived the fire, said his family have suffered years of depression and sleepless nights since the attack.

Mohammed was extradited back to the UK last year (PA)
A police officer stands guard outside the house in Osborne Road, in the Birkby area of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire after the fire at the residence in 2002 (PA)

Describing the arson as a "despicable crime", he added: "He acted with others to throw petrol bombs through the windows of our home and pour petrol through the letterbox.

"He would have known that this would have prevented our family from escaping to safety.

"Three adult members of the family survived, both by fighting the flames and by jumping through the window, although we have suffered the results of smoke inhalation and horrific burns."

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During a four-week trial at Leeds Crown Court, jurors heard the fire, which killed eight members of the Chishti family, followed a grudge that the defendant had been "pursuing vigorously”.

Prosecutors said Mohammed, of no fixed address, reacted angrily when his sister, Shahida, became involved in a relationship with a man named Saud Pervez, of whom he did not approve.

One member of the Chishti 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 on May 12 2002, the court heard.

Mohammed threw petrol bombs into the property in Birkby, Huddersfield (PA)

He said that he and his relatives are "naturally pleased" to see Mohammed "brought to justice after 17 heartbreaking years".

Jurors were told petrol bombs were thrown into the property, while petrol, believed to have been poured into the home through a nozzle, was ignited.

Mohammed showed no emotion as he was found guilty of eight counts of murder and one of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.

The victims of the fire were Zaib-Un-Nisa, 54, Nafeesa Aziz, 35, Mohammed Ateeq-ur-Rehman, 18, Tayyaba Batool, 13, Rabina Batool, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, five, Aneesa Zawaz, two, and Najeebah Nawaz, who was six months old.

During the sentencing hearing, Mr MacDonald said that an aggravating factor in the offence was the "significant degree of planning or premeditation".

Eight people all died in the fire in 2002 (PA)

Mohammed had knowledge of the layout of the house and would have known that the close proximity of the stairs to the front door would have meant little chance of escape for those inside once petrol had been poured in and ignited, Mr MacDonald said.

He added that the murderer had been arrested by police on the day of the attack itself, before being released on bail four days later on May 16 2002.

The prosecutor told court that, on July 17 2002, he failed to answer bail, prompting fears that he had absconded - despite his passport having expired around a month earlier.

He was eventually traced to Pakistan and brought back to the UK in October 2018 after officers had "embedded themselves" within Pakistan.

Abbas Lakha QC, defending, said father-of-four Mohammed has been unable to see his children, aged between 13 and seven, since being remanded in custody in Pakistan.

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