Brothers guilty over house fire deaths

Monday 24 January 2011 18:13

Two brothers have been found guilty of killing two young children and their mother who died after a fire ripped through their home.

Asjid Mahmood, 22, was found guilty of murdering Iram Shah and her children Alina, 10, and Aman, eight, at Bradford Crown Court.

The children were killed when the fire swept through their home in Bradford in July last year.

Their mother was seriously injured when she jumped to escape the blaze and died later in hospital.

Mahmood's brother, Arshed Mahmood, 18, was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter.

The brothers were told they will be sentenced next month.

The jury of seven men and five women took four hours to find Asjid Mahmood guilty of murder.

They cleared his brother of the more serious charge but found him guilty of manslaughter.

During the two-week trial, Asjid admitted setting fire to petrol-soaked paper at the back door of the family's home in Hendford Drive in the early hours of July 6 last year.

He claimed he was only trying to scare Mrs Shah's ex-husband, who had left the house earlier in the evening.

The jury was taken through the horror which ensued as the flames ripped through the three-bedroom house.

Mrs Shah's brother, Mohsan Rasa, described how he was watching TV when the fire started and although he got upstairs to warn the family it was impossible to get back down again.

He said he climbed out of a back window and on to a lower roof where he waited for his sister to pass the children out to him.

But no one came and the fire was too intense to climb back in, he said.

Mr Rasa went round to the front of the house on Hendford Drive where he saw his sister burning on the ground having jumped.

He said she was shouting as he tried to help her.

Mr Rasa said: "She was saying, 'My kids are dying inside - take them out, take them out'."

The jury was told Mrs Shah suffered 80% burns and was taken to hospital where she died six days later.

Both the children died in the house despite frantic efforts by neighbours to get into the building.

The court was shown a harrowing photograph of the outline shape of Alina's body left in the soot of the bedroom floor where she was found.

The jury was told the blaze was started by Asjid Mahmood after an increasingly bitter dispute between him and Zaheer Shah - the ex-husband of Iram Shah and father of the two children.

Mr Shah was estranged from Mrs Shah but still visited her house regularly and would sleep in the spare room.

Prosecutors said the dispute centred around a car Mr Shah and Asjid Mahmood had bought together to hire out.

Neither brother showed any emotion as the jury foreman read out the verdicts in a packed Court 2 at Bradford Crown Court.

Both dressed in suits, they stood in the dock separated by a security guard.

The judge, Mr Justice Coulson, said he could not sentence them today because he wanted the Probation Service to prepare a pre-sentence report on the younger of the two brothers.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Bottomley, from West Yorkshire Police, said: "Our investigations revealed that a dispute over money had lead Asjid and Arshed Mahmood to commit this heartless act.

"Their selfish actions have destroyed a family and had a profound impact on local people who were understandably shocked by these events.

"The efforts of neighbours to save those in the house were commendable and simply show the sheer strength of community here in Bradford."

Mr Bottomley added: "This is everyone's worst nightmare - children and their mother upstairs in the early hours of the morning and they're met by a fire."

He said: "It's just a waste of three lives."

The officer also read a statement on behalf of the Shah family. It said: "Aman, Alina and Iram bought only joy and happiness to anyone they came into contact with.

"Their lives were brutally cut short.

"The children and their mother deserved to live long and prosperous lives. They will never be forgotten by anyone who had the pleasure of knowing them.

"Now that justice has been served, we can only begin to try and replace our hurt with fond memories of the children and their mother.

"We would also like to express our greatest gratitude to the West Yorkshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service who worked long and hard to ensure that the individuals responsible were held accountable for the deaths of our loved ones."

Malcolm Taylor, from CPS Yorkshire and Humberside's Complex Casework Unit, said: "This was a particularly tragic and senseless crime.

"A much-loved young mother and her two young children all lost their lives in a house fire deliberately set by the defendants.

"Our thoughts today must be with the family of Iram, Alina and Aman, whose family have shown immense dignity in the face of great grief and loss. I hope that today's result will bring them some small measure of closure."

The brothers will be sentenced on February 11 at Bradford Crown Court.