Police accused of failing to investigate youth's death

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The Independent Online

For ten days Nighat Mahmood tried in vain to persuade the police to search for her missing boy but was dismissed as an over-protective parent.

By the time officers were spurred into action the badly beaten body of Sajjad Mahmood was found dumped in a lake and essential forensic science evidence, which could have helped convict his killers, had been destroyed.

Now some of the officers who failed to take the initial reports seriously could face criminal proceedings. The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to bring charges of neglect of duty against those involved. The decision follows a critical inquiry report by the Greater Manchester Police, overseen by the independent Police Complaints Authority into the force's handling of the investigation.

Mrs Mahmood became concerned when her teenage son failed to return home after a Saturday night out. That concern turned to panic when she was told by her son's friend that Sajjad had been beaten by three drug dealers and dumped in a reservoir.

During the next 10 days Mrs Mahmood and her husband, Arshad, made nine visits to her local police station in Accrington, Lancashire, to ask, and later plead, for help in finding the 18-year-old.

About 30 officers dealt with their requests and were provided with the names of the reservoir and the three men believed to have been responsible for the abducting the Mahmoods' son.

"The police kept telling us to go away. They said he had probably run away and there was nothing to worry about," said Mr Mahmood.

"They said Asian boys are always leaving home because of arranged marriages." It was not until 10 days after Sajjad's disappearance that the police started to take a closer interest and sent divers into Hagg's Lodge, a former mill pond on the outskirts of the town, where her son was supposed to have been dumped.

Within hours they found the badly beaten body of the missing teenager. A post-mortem examination was unable to establish an exact cause of death because the body had been immersed for so long.

The three men named by the parents were later arrested and charged. One was jailed for 10 years for manslaughter and drug offences and the other two received six-year prison sentences for causing grievous bodily harm with intent and drug offences.

The affair has shattered the Mahmood family, who are bitter about their treatment and believe vital evidence may have been missed because of the failure to act quickly.

It was just after 8pm on Saturday 21 March 1998 that Sajjad left his parents' house and walked to a property rented by James Butler, 21, who along with Karl Barton, 22, and Wayne Kelly, 23, used the premises to sell amphetamines and cannabis. Sajjad had apparently gone to apologise for an earlier alcohol-fuelled wrecking spree.

At his trial in April 1999, Butler told the jury at Preston Crown Court that he used CS spray on Sajjad. He said that Barton kicked Sajjad in the stomach, and Kelly hit him with a steel torch.

The teenager was then forced to walk to the reservoir. The three men claim they then forced their victim into the water ­ rather than throwing him in while unconscious. All three had denied murder but the original trial was halted when Butler admitted manslaughter.

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