A PAKISTANI national has been found guilty of murdering eight people in an arson attack on a house 17 years ago.
Shahid Mohammed was last Tuesday (6) found guilty of carrying out the attack that killed five children and three adults of one family in Birkby, Huddersfield, in 2002.
He was jailed last Wednesday (7) for life, with a minimum of 23 years.
Mohammed was found guilty of eight counts of murder at Leeds Crown Court. He was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life.
The 37-year-old was investigated by police at the time of the fire, but he fled to Pakistan in 2003. He lived there for 13 years, setting up a business and starting a family, before being detained in 2015 and extradited to the UK in 2018.
A jury at Leeds Crown Court heard how Mohammed, along with three other men, plotted to set fire to the Chisti family home after Mohammed’s sister Shahida started seeing a man named Saud Pervez, apparently against his will.
The likely target of the attack was Mohammed Ateeq-Ur-Rehman, a member of the Chishti family who Mohammed believed had played an “active part” in maintaining the relationship.
The others 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.
Aziz’s mother, Zaib-un-Nisa, 54, died a week later in hospital after jumping from a window to escape the flames.
The victims were all asleep in their home on Osborne Road, Birkby, Huddersfield, when petrol bombs were thrown inside the property.
Petrol was also poured through the letterbox and ignited.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC told jurors during a four-week trial at Leeds Crown Court that the effect of those actions was that “given that the stairs were very close to the front door, 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 court also heard how one of the survivors, Siddiqah, was awoken at around 2am by loud screams of her family members who were trapped on the upper floors of the home.
“I was woken up by a scream. When I went downstairs the smoke was coming through the front room.
“I burnt my face and my hair, and I knew that I could not get through any further – it was too much.
“Blood was coming from my mouth because so much smoke had come in.”
A trial in 2003 had led to the convictions of three other men – Shaied Iqbal, Shakiel Shazad and Nazar Hussain – for their roles in the tragedy.
In a statement, the Chishti family said: “We are naturally pleased that the man who ignored police and court bail and somehow left the country has finally been brought to justice.
“In a chillingly cold, calculated and planned fashion, he and friends took the lives of eight loved, cherished and totally innocent members of our family, including the most despicable of all crimes, the killing of five children. It should never be forgotten that the youngest of all, Najeeba, was a baby of barely six months of age.
“In May 2017, our beloved father also died, seemingly through ill health, but undoubtedly, through the years of utter heart-break, pain and suffering caused by this heinous of crimes.
“In reality, therefore, this mob killed not eight, but nine members of our family.”
The family also thanked the West Yorkshire Police for pursuing the case and also the court staff for looking after them “during these difficult weeks.
“They have shown compassion and understanding in a way that shames this evil man who has none.”
Det Ch Supt Nick Wallen said: “I am pleased to say that we have finally secured justice for the Chishti family, and Shahid Mohammed has been convicted for his involvement in this horrific incident, which claimed the lives of eight innocent people, five of who were children.
“This incident remains the biggest single event of multiple murders that West Yorkshire Police has investigated.”