A taxi driver who killed his two young children by smothering them with a petrol-soaked rag has been been jailed for life with a minimum term of 33 years.
Endris Mohammed was unanimously convicted last week of the murders of Saros Endris, aged eight, and his six-year-old sister Leanor, who both died of airway obstruction after suffering chemical burns to their faces.
Mohammed was also given a concurrent 10-year sentence at Birmingham Crown Court for the attempted murder of his wife, who was asleep when the 47-year-old killed their children and set fire to their home.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Gilbart rejected Mohammed's claim to have planned to end his own life before the “terrible criminal enterprise” designed to kill the children and their mother.
Mohammed, of Holland Road, Hamstead, Birmingham, tried to murder his wife, Penil Teklehaimanot, by tampering with a gas pipe and setting a fire near their front door in the early hours of 28 October last year.
The former factory worker bought a fuel can and three litres of petrol around 12 hours before the killings and later suffered burns to his head after setting the passenger side of his cab alight.
A two-week trial was told Mohammed, who met his wife in 2006 in Kent after they came to Britain from East Africa as asylum seekers, killed the children during a downstairs sleepover.
After paying tribute to Saros and Leanor as happy, cheerful and engaging children of whom any parent would be justly proud, the judge told Mohammed: “You have deliberately snuffed out their young lives. Their mother escaped death but she must endure that tragic loss as she rebuilds her life. They [the children] loved you, as did your partner. They trusted you implicitly and were enjoying your company even on the night of their murder. You repaid their trust in you by killing them.”
The judge accepted Mohammed was suffering from a depressive illness falling short of diminished responsibility, but said a withdrawal from a cash machine hours beforehand showed he had not intended to take his own life.
As Mohammed showed no sign of emotion in the dock, the judge described the fire at the family home as an attempt to achieve the “destruction” of the three victims in a conflagration.
Mohammed, who appeared in court with his head heavily bandaged, remained seated as the judge said the UK had a long history of welcoming those from abroad fleeing oppression. The judge told Mohammed: “Your partner had established her life here as a refugee from persecution. That safe haven she shared with you and her children was destroyed by you in the most appalling manner imaginable.
“You smothered your children with a petrol-soaked cloth. You told the psychiatrists that you did so to prevent them feeling the ghastly death of being burned alive.
“I give that little credence, as you were prepared to see your partner thus consumed, and took steps by trying to disconnect the gas hose to make the fire greater.”
Before the sentence was passed, defence barrister Timothy Raggatt QC said Mohammed himself was still struggling to understand his actions.
“Here is a man of previous good character, a devoted husband, who has done something unspeakable,” Mr Raggatt told the court. “He is at a loss to understand it himself.”