Neighborhood vigilantes in Bristol, England, incinerated an Iranian immigrant they falsely thought was preying on children in the neighborhood.
Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, took pictures of youths vandalizing his flower baskets. A court heard he planned to give the images to police as evidence. But a neighbor saw him with the camera and reported him as a pedophile
The police arrested Ebrahimi, but let him go when they realized the mistake.
However, two days after his release, he was attacked by vigilante neighbors who believed the pedophile story.
Lee James has pleaded guilty to murder after beating Ebrahimi unconscious, dragging him into the street and setting him on fire. He will be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court later this month
Some neighbors jumped to the conclusion that Ebrahimi was a pervert when he was seen taking photos of youths vandalizing his hanging baskets.
Lee James, 24, responded to the rumors by assuming they were accurate and then taking the law into his own hands. He kicked Ebrahimi unconscious. With the help of pal Stephen Norley, James then dragged him into the street, soaked him in gasoline and set him alight.
Police earlier took Ebrahimi away for questioning as an angry mob chanted “pedo, pedo,” British slang for pedophile. But he was freed when officers found he had done nothing wrong.
One resident of the Bristol neighborhood told the Mirror, “When the police took him away, everyone was cheering. Then he was released back into that.”
Another added: “Whoever started those rumors now has to live with that. He wasn’t a pedophile and now he’s dead. That’s a hell of a thing to have on your conscience.”
Ebrahimi had learning difficulties and lived alone in public housing. He was registered as disabled and unable to work.
He ran into problems with his neighbors July 12 when he took the photos of the vandals.
According to witnesses, a mob believing the pedophile rumors surrounded his apartment before police took him away. But on his release, the rumors reached fever pitch.
Avon and Somerset Police spokesman Martin Dunscombe confirmed the victim was an innocent man: “We can categorically state he had not taken any indecent images and nothing of concern was found on his computer.”
Relatives described Ebrahimi as a “loving and caring man” who lived for his garden. They said in a statement: “Bijan was a quiet, disabled man whose only joys in life came from his horticultural interests and his cat. He was an excellent uncle and a warm, supportive brother.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Bristol City Council have both launched reviews into the way the case was handled. Six police officers are under investigation for gross misconduct, presumably for failing to see that Ebrahimi received protection when he was released.
A spokesman said: “The review will examine all the authority’s contact with Mr. Ebrahimi to explore what, if any, lessons can be learnt.”
Nick Gargan, the chief constable (police chief) of the community, told the BBC that rumors and speculation about crime are rife in Bristol, a city of 430,000 people on the Severn River in southwest England.
Gargan asked, “Why wasn’t that poor man better served by us…. We failed that man.”