A British man was jailed for at least 18 years on Thursday for the brutal murder of a disabled Iranian man who was wrongly accused of being a paedophile.
Lee James, 24, repeatedly kicked Bijan Ebrahimi in the head and set fire to his dead body on July 14 in the southwestern English city of Bristol.
The Iranian, 44, had been arrested three days earlier following complaints that he had been taking pictures of children.
Ebrahimi’s burnt body was found in the street outside his Bristol home. He had made several frantic calls to the police that evening asking for help.
Britain’s independent police watchdog has launched an investigation into officers’ handling of the case, while 12 police staff have been interviewed over allegations of misconduct.
Two of Ebrahimi’s siblings watched at Bristol Crown Court as a judge jailed James for life with a minimum term of 18 years, describing the killing as an “act of murderous injustice”.
“The circumstances of the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi and the subsequent burning of his body are deeply shocking,” judge Peregrine Simon said.
Police apologised for failing to protect Ebrahimi, who had moved to Britain in 2001 and repeatedly complained of harassment by his neighbours.
“Mr Ebrahimi was someone who deserved the protection of all of us and we are very sorry about what happened to him,” Chief Constable Nick Gargan of Avon and Somerset police said.
Residents described a mood of anger and hostility in the neighbourhood after rumours circulated that Ebrahimi, who had back problems and was registered as disabled, was a paedophile.
He had been arrested after an angry mob reportedly confronted him outside his home, but was later released after police realised his pictures mostly showed adults.
Ebrahimi is believed to have been trying to gather evidence of harassment by local residents.
James pleaded guilty to murder. His neighbour Stephen Norley, 25, admitted assisting an offender and was jailed for four years.
Prosecutors say Norley helped James drag Ebrahimi’s body away from the murder scene and gave him white spirit to help burn the body.
James — who had been filmed by Ebrahimi with his young children — had barged into Ebrahimi’s home and told him he would “take the law into his own hands”, the court heard.
Ebrahimi’s family said he had been subject to “horrendous bullying by bad people on a daily basis”.
“Call it racism, call it prejudice, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, the things our brother was subjected to were barbaric,” they said in a statement.
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