Asians want inquiry into race attack case

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CAMPAIGNERS are demanding an inquiry into the police handling of an investigation into the near-fatal beating of a Bangladeshi youth. Thirteen months after Quaddus Ali, now 18, was battered in a race attack by a gang of men at Stepney, east Londo n, no one has been successfully prosecuted.

Mr Ali spent four months on a life-support machine and is permanently disabled. His injuries led to bitter exchanges between police and the Asian community in London.

It took the jury just 45 minutes to acquit John Rutter, the only person prosecuted for the attack, at Southwark Crown Court last Thursday. The court heard that evidence against Mr Rutter, 22, could not be relied on. Eight witnesses failed to pick him outin three identity parades.

Joy Merriam, Mr Rutter's solicitor, said yesterday that police had eyewitness descriptions of two stocky, blond men alleged to have been in the gang who battered Mr Ali. But according to Ms Merriam, the police did not arrest anyone else once they had charged her client, who is six feet tall, wiry and dark-haired.

Police documents reveal that a man who fitted the description of an attacker with a pony-tail was arrested and questioned. According to Ms Merriam, he was released without being put on an identity parade and later agreed to testify for the prosecution. He failed to appear for the committal and trial.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted making an anonymous telephone call to the Sun newspaper, two days after the attack, in which he said the beating was not racist but motivated by a sex assault on his 15-year-old niece.

He then told police that the "niece" was actually Mr Rutter's sister. Although no such assault had been reported, police regarded this as a possible motive for the attack on Mr Ali and arrested Mr Rutter. Last week in court the prosecution alleged revenge was Mr Rutter's motive.

Police documents from October 1993 show one of the key prosecution witnesses, Carl Lynch, "refused to confirm Rutter had confessed to him". Lynch told police Mr Rutter denied his sister had been assaulted. The Ali family and the local community feel bitter about the outcome of the investigation. Mr Ali's mother said: "Those who almost killed [my son] will feel even more confident now." Mr Rutter said yesterday: "I have a lot of sympathy for Quaddus Ali. He, his family and I are all victims of this, though him much more than me. The real tragedy is that the guilty people have got away.'' A local councillor said: "The community will question the police's ability to protect them." Kumar Mershid, a community spokesman, demanded an inquiry.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We don't discuss who we interview."