An Asian teenager was battered to death by his racist cellmate during a "perverted" gladiator-style game by prison officers, a senior official claimed yesterday.
Guards at the young offenders institution thought it was a "joke" and a "laugh" to lock up conflicting inmates in a sport they nicknamed Coliseum or Gladiator, an inquiry in London was told. Unsuitable detainees would be pitted together while officers bet on the results. On this occasion the game went "dramatically wrong" and the psychopath Robert Stewart repeatedly battered Zahid Mubarek, 19, with a table leg.
Mubarek, who had been due to be released that day after serving a short sentence for theft, died in hospital seven days later. The inquiry into his death heard that Stewart, who is serving a life sentence, was placed in the same cell at Feltham young offenders institution in March 2000 despite warnings that he was dangerous and had written racist correspondence.
Yesterday Duncan Keys, the assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), said the belief that Mubarek had died because of the Gladiator practice had haunted him so much that he had reported it anonymously to the Commission for Racial Equality. He said that his revelation had led to him being harangued and receiving death threats. Senior union officials had told him to "shut up".
The inquiry saw a transcript of Mr Keys's anonymous call to the CRE in May last year, in which he said: "I'm no bleeding heart on this but that kid was murdered for other people's perverted pleasure.
"The game was called Coliseum. Mubarek was killed because people thought it was funny to see what would happen when they put a young Asian lad in with someone who wanted to kill Asians.
"Now Mubarek wasn't the only victim there. He was the victim that died. Other people had this joke played on them as well.If they had two exceptionally tough prisoners that both wanted to rule the roost they would be put in a cell together."
Mr Keys said he had been told of the practice by a colleague who said that staff at the young offender institution found the games "amusing". He had called the race watchdog, he said, because he believed a cover-up was taking place, adding: "I was just desperate to kick-start an inquiry, a serious inquiry into the information that I had been given."
In addition to his secret call, he told the hearing yesterday: "I had gone to the general secretary and the deputy general secretary of my own union and I had told them of my deep concerns and the information I had. I was subsequently told to shut up." Some time later the union's senior officials informed the director general of prisons, Phil Wheatley.
In a July 2004 police interview, Mr Keys told detectives he believed the game amounted to "a conspiracy to murder", but investigating officers brought no charges after finding no evidence to back the claim.
Mr Keys admitted that he had no direct evidence that Mubarek's murder was linked to Gladiator. He said that he had heard it from Tom Robson, a POA national executive committee member with responsibility for Feltham in 2000. The practice was well known by senior union officials, he said.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.
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