Victim's father says he will continue legal fight

Leeds footballers' verdict: The Najeibs

By Ian Herbert
Saturday 15 December 2001 01:00

The shock of laying eyes on his nearly unrecognisable 20-year-old son in a hospital bed was the beginning of a prolonged period of misery for the father of Sarfraz Najeib.

Yesterday, at a press conference after the footballers' trial, Muhammed Najeib, 47, spoke of his disappointment. "Justice has clearly not been done," he said. "The last 18 months have been a living hell for our family. Our lives have been shattered. This is not the end of the matter. I intend to fight on for justice for my sons."

Mr Najeib said he was convinced the attack had a racist motive, despite opinions expressed by judges in two trials.

His perspective is influenced by his own experiences in Britain. He said that at the age of 17, six years after he was sent to live with British relatives by his farming family in the Punjab, he was set upon by a gang of skinheads shouting racial abuse as he walked home from Shire Green School in Sheffield. He said that the incident had affected the rest of his life.

"My son suffered a savage and racist attack by five white men," he said. "While he lay lifeless and unconscious on the ground, he was punched and kicked around the head like a football. And on top of that he was bitten as well. Every time he looks in the mirror those bite marks will remind him of the day he was nearly murdered."

Mr Najeib criticised Leeds United's handling of the issue. "I never expected an apology from them but I did expect some sort of sympathy or sorrow for our grief," he said.

"The footballers should never have been playing on while they were being investigated and in the legal process. It sends out the wrong message to the public."

He said that his family was still feeling the backlash of the publicity from the case. His car tyres were slashed last week and twice in the past fortnight skinheads had called at the take-away he runs in Sheffield asking for him and intimidating staff, he said.

The family's adviser, Suresh Grover, the chairman of the National Civil Rights Movement, said that they were taking legal advice on their next course of action. "The attack on Sarfraz was motivated by racism," Mr Grover said. "Although this may not have been the only motive it was nevertheless significant." He called on the Football Association to open an inquiry into the way Leeds United had handled the affair.

He also criticised the role of the solicitor Peter McCormick, an associate director of Leeds United, who gave evidence in court to counter claims by the player Michael Duberry.

Mr Duberry had claimed that Mr McCormick advised him to continue to lie about what had happened on the night of the attack when Mr Duberry told him that he wanted to change an earlier statement to police. Mr McCormick strongly denied the claims.

Mr Grover said: "We have done everything in our power to bring those responsible for this savage attack to justice, but justice has been denied to us."

As for Sarfraz Najeib, his life has changed considerably since he won a place on an information technology course at Leeds Metropolitan University, not far from his home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He was following his brother, Shahzad, 21, who was on the same course. His sister, Naureen, 22, graduated last summer.

Since the attack he has continued his studies but still suffers. "I am always paranoid when I go out. I don't have much of a social life. When I go to university I always come straight back home," he has said. He has post-concussional syndrome, whose symptoms are insomnia and headaches. He carries a scar on his cheek where he was bitten and has had surgery to remove a bone that was restricting the breathing in his smashed nose.

"My leg still hurts when I walk up and down stairs. If I walk more than 10 minutes it starts to hurt. I have not played any sport since I got the injuries. It also seems to me that one side of my face has been lowered," he said.

His father said: "It has all made me think I should have returned to Pakistan when I was attacked. I felt it was because of my mistake that my child suffered."

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