White gang beat Asian taxi driver to death over damaged scooter

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The Independent Online

A gang of white teenagers ambushed and beat to death an Asian taxi driver in what police later described as a premeditated attack of mindless violence, a court heard yesterday.

Three of the teenagers were found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of the racially aggravated murder of Mohammad Parvaiz, 41, a father of three children who was kicked and beaten in Huddersfield last July. A fourth member of the gang pleaded guilty during the course of the trial.

After what the judge described as an "emotive and distressing" case, Mr Parvaiz's widow, Naheed Kausar, 33, who sat through the six-week trial, praised her "caring, happy and fantastic" husband, who she had been forced to identify in a mortuary on their 15th wedding anniversary. She said: "He was my life and soul. Now that he is not here I feel that I am incomplete. They haven't just killed him; they killed us as well. I feel so empty and lost. He was my life. We are all so lost without him. There is no meaning to life anymore.''

The jury yesterday found Graeme Slavin, 18, Christopher Murphy, 18, and Steven Utley, 17, guilty of murder. Michael Hand, 19, changed his plea to guilty earlier in the trial. Two others, Michael Beeby, 16, and Jason Harris, 17, were found not guilty of murder and not guilty of an alternative count of manslaughter. Beeby was found guilty of violent disorder, a charge that all the other defendants had previously admitted. All the defendants come from the Huddersfield area; Hand was not in court yesterday.

The judge, Dame Heather Steel, adjourned sentencing for reports but said Murphy and Hand would receive life sentences and Utley and Slavin would be "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure".

The court heard that, a few weeks before his death, Mr Parvaiz had answered a call for a mini-bus taxi, from a group of Asians who became involved in a violent dispute with some white youths, in which a scooter belonging to Murphy had been damaged. Mr Parvaiz, the court heard, had been an entirely innocent party in the events.

On the night he was attacked, the court heard, a girl used Murphy's mobile phone to call him. A large group of youths, who had been drinking and smoking cannabis, gathered to wait for the vehicle. As Mr Parvaiz pulled up, stones and bricks were thrown at the vehicle, and Mr Parvaiz was dragged out screaming. He showed no signs of offensive or defensive injuries, indicating that he was not capable of defending himself as he was being struck, the court heard. He suffered 23 separate injuries.

The youths were later heard boasting in the local pub about the attack. Witnesses reported hearing Hand boast: "It deserves the Paki bastards right'' and Murphy talk about "Paki juice" on his boots.

The murder shocked the local community and almost 2,000 taxi drivers in Kirklees went on a day's strike as a show of solidarity.

Det Supt Tim Forber, the officer in charge of the case, said it was "a premeditated attack of mindless violence ... pack mentality at its absolute worst''. He added after the case: "It's an appalling act of violence. An absolutely mindless waste of life."

DS Forber said the attack was as much retribution as racism but added: "Our case has always been that perhaps that racial hostility made it easier in their own minds to do what they did."