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Three guilty of racist murder during riots

Three Asian men were sentenced to life in prison yesterday for the murder of a black IT worker during last year's Birmingham riots, as detectives vowed to continue their hunt for the rest of the "pack of thugs" involved in the killing.

Isaiah Young-Sam, 23, was stabbed in the heart in a racist attack last October as he walked through the Lozells area of Birmingham with his brother and two friends. He had taken a back route home, to avoid violence that flared after rumours were spread about a local West Indian girl being gang-raped by Asian men, when he was attacked by a group of up to six men.

Waqar Ahmed, 26, Azhil Khan, 23, and Afzal Khan, 22, from the Handsworth area of the city, were told they would each serve a minimum of 25 years in jail, despite the judge accepting that none of them had wielded the knife.

Sentencing the trio at Birmingham Crown Court, Mr Justice Mackay said: "The four men were set upon because they were Afro-Caribbean and for no other reason. They had done nothing to these defendants and done nothing to incur or justify hostility. What led to the death of Isaiah Young-Sam was the colour of his skin."

The defendants were each jailed for 10 years after being found guilty of a separate charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Locksley Byfield, one of Mr Young-Sam's friends. These jail terms will run concurrently.

Mr Justice Mackay told the defendants: "You've been convicted of a most serious offence, the murder of Isaiah Young-Sam, a young man with great promise who had done you no harm. Your action was racially aggravated and you are also party to the grievous wounding of his companion. The sentence for murder is fixed by law and is one of life imprisonment."

On the evening of 22 October, while trying to avoid violence, Mr Young-Sam was confronted by the attackers who appeared from two or three cars wearing bandanas, armed with knives and bats and shouting racist abuse. The three defendants bought one-way tickets to Pakistan three days after the stabbing, but were returned to the UK by the Dubai authorities.

Mr Justice Mackay said he was satisfied none of them struck the fatal blow. The judge said: "In my judgment, these three defendants all went to Lozells Road that night looking for trouble and found it. They were three normally respectable, law-abiding men, from good backgrounds, but they were drawn like moths to the flame by the sheer excitement, the street drama of that night. None of these three were the principal murderer, the man who actually wielded the knife, but they all went along with the attack."

Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Ward, from West Midlands Police, who led the investigation, welcomed the sentences "as a successful step on a long journey for justice for Isaiah, his family and his friends". He said that up to a dozen offenders had been involved in the murder and that efforts to bring them to justice would continue.

"During the course of this trial, we have heard new evidence from witnesses who have previously declined to speak to us. I urge these witnesses and others within the community to come forward now and help us to secure the conviction of Isaiah's killers and in doing so begin to heal some of the scars his death left in the community," he said.

Mr Young-Sam's 22-year-old sister, Kavina, said she could not understand the motivation for killing an innocent person, and remembered her brother as "such a kind, fun-loving, humble, respectful and dignified young man who always gave off a pleasant vibe".

Detective Chief Inspector Ward said 10 people had so far been arrested in connection with the incident.