Prison failings 'led to racist murder'

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The Independent Online

An Asian teenager was beaten to death by a racist skinhead in his cell after a "shocking catalogue of failure" by prison chiefs, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said yesterday.

Zahid Mubarek, 19, was on the eve of his release from a three-month sentence for shoplifting when he was attacked with a table leg and bludgeoned to death.

His assailant was Robert Stewart, a 20-year-old with RIP tattooed on his forehead who had been allowed to share his cell despite a history of violence and extreme racism.

In a long-awaited report into the killing at Feltham young offenders' institution in March 2000, the CRE identified 20 mistakes by the Prison Service, including not referring Stewart to a doctor or psychiatrist, and not reading his letters detailing racist thoughts.

Stewart, who is serving life for murder, told the inquiry: "They shouldn't have put me there in the first place ...I was a time-bomb ready to explode."

Trevor Phillips, the CRE chairman, said: "[His] death was caused by the lethal combination of racism and systemic neglect. I am convinced that had Zahid been white, he would not have died."

But Mr Mubarek's family accused the CRE of pulling its punches and demanded an independent inquiry. Dan Rubenstein, their solicitor, said the report, which cost £650,000 and took three years to complete, left the family "none the wiser why a racist psychopath could share a cell with a man due to be released the next day.

"Trevor Phillips remains with his old friends and the Government who appointed him."