Man gets life for killing Kurdish asylum-seeker

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The Independent Online

A man who murdered a Kurdish refugee in a case which threw the spotlight on the Government's controversial asylum dispersal policy, was jailed for life yesterday.

Scott Burrell, 26, was found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of stabbing Firsat Dag, 25, and attempting to kill a German tourist, Stephan Herold, 36, later on the same night last August.

Mr Dag was stabbed on the blighted Sighthill estate, a district which later became a focus of protest and confrontation between local residents and the refugee community.

Lord Kingarth, the trial judge, described the assault as "a shameful and cowardly and totally unprovoked attack" which happened during a "violent, drunken spree". But he accepted there was no racial motivation in the murder. The judge recommended a minimum jail term of 14 years.

The court was told that Burrell confronted Mr Dag shortly after midnight on 5 August, as he walked home with a friend to the estate. Erkan Ayyildiz, 16, told the jury that he and Mr Dag were chased by Burrell and another man.

Mr Ayyildiz said: "He [Burrell] came close to Firsat and he said, 'Who are you?' Firsat said something I didn't understand ... I didn't see anything in his hand. I thought it was a punch. Then Firsat went backwards. I told him, 'Let's run' and we ran together. He was holding his right hand to his chest and he said, 'Oh my God, I've been stabbed. I didn't believe it, but then I saw there was blood."

After the attack, Burrell turned to his friend, Martin Gould, who had accompanied him throughout the evening, and said: "I've stabbed that guy."

The jury, which took 90 minutes to deliver its verdict, heard how Burrell and Mr Gould had spent 10 hours drinking earlier that day, before venturing into Glasgow city centre.

After the trial, the Scottish Refugee Council said justice had been done, but it was dismayed that it took Mr Dag's murder to focus concern on the treatment of asylum-seekers. The council said in a statement: "As always in a murder case it has been extremely difficult period for the family. They can now return home with faith in the UK legal system that punishes those convicted of murder."

Mr Dag's murder marked the low-point of racial aggravation on the Sighthill estate, which was one of the first districts to house large numbers of asylum-seekers from the south of England – the so-called dispersal policy.

It prompted the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to announce wide-ranging policy changes, including an end to the despised voucher system, modification to the dispersal policy and the introduction of new accommodation and work permit arrangements.

* A 15-year-old boy who was part of a gang that killed an Asian cook in a racially motivated attack was jailed for life at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Stephen Hansen, now aged 16, from Poplar, east London, was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure after being convicted of murdering Shiblu Rahman, 34, in an attack in April outside his home. Mr Rahman and his wife and two children had been subjected to weeks of racial abuse, the court was told. Hansen's two accomplices, Terry Cooper, 18, from Bow, and Ian Devlin, 17, from Poplar, were sentenced to nine years for manslaughter. Mr Justice Hawkins said: "I am in no doubt that this was a racially motivated attack."

Outside court, Detective Superintendent Peter Ship, who led the inquiry, said: "They were drunk and nasty people in the area when they came upon a lone Asian man. The trigger point for this murder was that this man was Asian, in that it was a purely racial motive. Mr Rahman was a hard-working family man. His last words – 'Why me, what have I done to you' – say it all. This was an horrific crime."