Murdered teenager's father: 'I was treated like the prisoner'

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The Independent Online

The father of an Asian teenager murdered by his racist cellmate has denounced the Prison Service for failing his son. Amin Mubarek, 44, made his criticisms after giving evidence to the inquiry investigating the circumstances of Zahid Mubarek's murder.

Mr Mubarek told the hearing he was devastated when his son was sent to Feltham young offenders institution in west London. Zahid, 19, was serving a three-month sentence for theft when he was attacked with a table leg in March 2000 by Robert Stewart, a psychopath who hero-worshipped the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence. He added that during his visits to the prison, he was made to feel "as if I was a prisoner".

The teenager, from Walthamstow, east London, was just hours from being released when Stewart, now 24, from Hattersley, Greater Manchester, struck. He is serving a life sentence for murder.

Speaking outside the inquiry in Holborn, central London, Mr Mubarek said his son should never have been sent to prison for the "mistake" he made. Asked if he felt the Prison Service had let his son down, he replied: "If he was a white prisoner this would never have happened - simple as that."

He added: "He shouldn't have been in the cell with Robert Stewart. I got the impression that Robert Stewart was a racist." He said his son had told him he had twice asked to be moved but had got no response from the authorities.

On the first two occasions he visited his son in Feltham, the 19-year-old appeared to be his normal self but on the next trip Zahid first talked about his cellmate. Mr Mubarek told the inquiry: "The third visit is when he mentioned Robert Stewart - how he just stood there looking at him all day long.

"And the last visit he told us he watched this film, Romper Stomper [about neo-Nazis], and he still had not been moved."

Mr Mubarek's final visit to his son was two days before he was due to be released. He told the inquiry: "[Zahid] was happy, looking forward to coming out, and his last words were to me, 'Dad, do not be late' picking him up." Mr Mubarek, who works as a carpenter, said his son was the oldest of three children and had twin brothers, Zahir and Shahid, now aged 19. He said he was an optimistic teenager who was close to his family. He left secondary school without completing his education but soon afterwards went on a Prince's Trust course which involved army-type training and confidence-building. Mr Mubarek, who was accompanied at the hearing by Zahid's mother, Sajida, and his uncle, Imtiaz Amin, said in his written statement: "Zahid had his heart set on joining the Army because of the experience of the course."

Patrick O'Connor QC, representing the Mubarek family, told the inquiry Zahid had mixed with people "who were getting him into bad ways". Mr Mubarek Snr said he knew his son had taken drugs but believed he was only "experimenting". He said his son had mentioned on one of the later visits that his cellmate was a racist. But, under questioning from Mr Justice Keith, the inquiry chairman, Mr Mubarek conceded he might have assumed Stewart was a racist because Zahid described him as having tattoos of a cross and RIP on his forehead.

Mr Mubarek added that, during his visits to Feltham, he felt he had been treated differently from white families seeing their relatives. Asked to give examples, he said: "Well, the way you got pushed around, like you were a prisoner yourself. As if I was a prisoner at Feltham." He added: "It is just their attitude, the way they looked at you, gave you [that] impression."

Speaking outside the inquiry, Mr Mubarek said: "When we went to hospital we ... asked a doctor what chance Zahid had [of surviving after the attack]. He gave me a straight answer - he had no chance."

The inquiry is expected to last three months.