Families of those killed by Birmingham looters appeal for restraint

The grieving relatives of three men run down by a car outside a petrol station want justice, not vengeance

"I want to be able to bury him so that he is at rest, but the police cannot release the body," said Khansa Ali, 22, the pregnant wife of one of the three men mown down in Birmingham in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

"I didn't want a post-mortem because it is against Islam, and now I just want bury my husband."

Ms Ali, who is four months pregnant and finds herself widowed half a year after coming to Britain from Rawalpindi in Pakistan to begin a life with her new husband, spent yesterday mourning at the Allens Road mosque with her husband's distraught family and friends, trying to picture a life in England with a new baby but no husband.

The tiny mosque is a five-minute drive from the Jet petrol station in Winson Green where her husband, Shahzad, 30, his brother, Abdul Musavir Khan, 31, and a third man, Haroon Jahan, 21, were hit and killed while trying to protect local shops from looting and vandalism during Tuesday night's violence.

The tension in the city's streets on Wednesday was palpable as threats of racial violence and recriminations escalated within hours of the murders. But by yesterday, one man had helped restore some calm. Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon, may have singlehandedly stopped parts of Birmingham from self-combusting last night with his unforgettable plea for peace, according to the chief constable of West Midlands Police.

Speaking outside the petrol station after meeting Mr Jahan and his family, who live just around the corner, Chief Constable Chris Sims was full of praise for Mr Jahan's intervention.

"An awful lot of work was being done yesterday by communities across Birmingham," he said. "But I think most of us would see that the intervention he felt able to make, which was one of the most powerful, generous and far-sighted interventions I have ever seen, at a moment of absolute grief and devastation, was decisive in terms of Birmingham not suffering tension and violence between communities."

Yesterday detectives held three more men, aged 16, 17 and 26, on suspicion of the murders. A fourth man, 32, arrested on Wednesday after he allegedly torched the car which was driven into the three men, was bailed after being questioned for 36 hours. This brings the number of people arrested in the West Midlands to nearly 400, of whom 26 were sentenced during Wednesday's all-night sitting at Solihull Court.

Mr Jahan, now a reluctant hero, publicly accepted condolences from Afro-Caribbean community leaders last night and reiterated his opposition to violence. Another call for calm was made, albeit less publicly, by the father of the two dead brothers.

Ghazanfar Ali, 63, speaking for the first time through an interpreter, appeared frailer than his years as he stood outside the mosque, where dozens had gathered to pay respects for a second day. "I want everyone to pray for my children; that's all the family now wants because there is nothing else we can do. I saw them lying on the floor with my own two eyes but I still can't believe that they are dead."

His only remaining son, Abdul Quddoos Khan, 33, was chain-smoking in an attempt to stay calm. He says he spent Wednesday night convincing young, angry Muslim men that revenge and violence was not what his family wanted.

"I am angry but violence wouldn't achieve anything except make another mother and father lose their child; what good would that do? We have to stay calm; everyone has to stay calm because we are looking for justice."

Sumera Ali, 25, the only sister of the dead brothers, is adamant that they are martyrs because they died protecting the mosque. "They were popular, really funny and bubbly; the house feels empty and will never be the same again. But they died protecting us so I am proud of them. I just want to bury them now; it would make us all feel better."

There was an uneasy calm in Birmingham last night but the large police presence cannot last for ever, and so, somehow, different communities must learn to trust each other again. Robert Branson, 63, from Perry Common, was one of dozens of people, Afro-Caribbean, Asian and white, who came to pay their respects and lay flowers where the three men were slain. Mr Branson's card read: "From one father to another father, I feel your pain."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones