Stay calm, pleads judge as men charged with riot hit-and-run are found not guilty

Jury takes just four hours to clear eight men accused of killing Asian students in Birmingham

There were appeals for calm last night after a jury cleared eight men of murdering three friends by deliberately driving into them during the height of last summer's riots.

Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the victims who helped prevent a "complete conflagration" in Birmingham by calling for peace to youths gathered outside his home after the deaths in August, again urged the community to act with restraint in light of the verdicts.

His plea echoed that of trial judge Mr Justice Flaux who said there should be no repeat of the street violence which swept across English cities.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court took just four hours following a three-month trial to find Ryan Goodwin, 21, Shaun Flynn, 26, Juan Ruiz-Gaviria, 31, Joshua Donald, 27, Everton Graham, 30, Adam King, 24, Ian Beckford, 30, and Aaron Parkins, 18, not guilty on three counts of murder.

The prosecution alleged that the men plotted a deadly three-car attack on Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, in what was described as the modern-day equivalent of a "chariot charge as they sought to protect businesses from looters during the disorder.

The deaths happened against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between some Asian and Afro-Caribbean residents of inner city Winson Green.

In a highly charged case the jury was shown video footage of the moment the three men were struck from behind– catapulting them 10ft into the air and smashing the bonnet of one of the cars. In a statement issued on behalf of the victims' families Mr Jahan said: "I would like to appeal for peace and calm in our community in light of today's verdicts."

Mr Jahan had sat impassively as the verdicts were read out. The defendants hugged each other and shook hands while friends and family called out "that's justice" and "thank you jury".

Mr Justice Flaux said the jury had concluded there was no deliberate plot among the defendants but that it was instead a "tragic accident".

"It is important, however strong feelings are within the community in Winson Green and adjacent areas, that calm is maintained and that these verdicts are respected. Any other action would not be honouring those who died. In fact, quite the reverse. What happened on the streets of Birmingham and other cities last August should never be repeated," the judge said.

Jamaican-born Mr Beckford was driving the Mazda 6 which hit the men.

It was claimed an Audi A3 driven by Mr King was used to sweep the victims into the path of the approaching Mazda as they travelled along Dudley Road in the early hours of 10 August. A Fiesta was also involved in the incident.

But Mr Beckford said he had been trying to swerve to avoid a collision and, like Mr King, said he had been friends with the victims and deeply regretted their deaths.

Inquiry begins into detective's court 'lies'

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation is underway into allegations that a senior detective lied under oath during the trial. The actions of Detective Chief Inspector Anthony Tagg led to defence claims of perjury and calls for proceedings to be halted when it emerged that eyewitnesses – possibly involved in rioting – were offered immunity from prosecution in return for giving evidence. Mr Justice Flaux said the senior investigating officer realised he was "seriously at fault" for having failed to inform counsel of the deal. "In effect he invented this story and then repeated that invention in the witness box," the judge said. DCI Tagg has remained on duty.