Bijan Ebrahimi: Police could have stopped refugee being murdered by his neighbour

  • Video report by ITV News Wales & West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

Police could have prevented the murder of a disabled refugee by a vigilante who wrongly believed he was a paedophile, a damning report has said.

Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, was beaten to death and his body set on fire outside his home in Brislington, Bristol, by neighbour Lee James in July 2013.

In the lead up to his death, Mr Ebrahimi's home and car were also set alight, he was racially abused and the word "pervert" was daubed across his front door.

But Avon and Somerset Police repeatedly ignored Mr Ebrahimi's pleas for help - including his final call about an hour before he was killed, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found.

Despite 85 calls to the force between 2007 and July 2013, officers viewed him as a liar and a nuisance.

In 73 of the calls, he reported incidents including racial abuse, criminal damage and threats to kill - but police failed to record these as crimes on at least 40 occasions.

This showed the "hallmarks" of racial bias, with police logs displaying potentially "racist undertones" including comments about the Iranian national's accent and him being "foreign", the report states.

Mr Ebrahimi's family said the IPCC's report "speaks to the institutional racism that lies at the heart of Bijan's murder and immolation".

"Had the authorities not colluded in the race hate crime that Bijan suffered in his council flat over all those years, he would be alive today,." they added.

Mr Ebrahimi remained polite and persistent in reporting crimes against him, despite police failing to record them dozens of times.

He even took to recording footage of his neighbours in a bid to prove what was happening to him.

But the police watchdog found "consistent systematic failure" by call handlers, who breached standards on recording crimes, and identifying hate offences and repeat victims.

Jan Williams, an IPCC commissioner, said the police failure was "at its worst at the very time that his need was greatest".

"There could, and should, have been a very different response," she added.

"Instead, his complaints about abusive neighbours were disbelieved and he was considered to be a liar, a nuisance and an attention seeker.

"Neighbours' counter allegations were taken at face value and accepted, despite evidence to the contrary, and Bijan Ebrahimi found himself regarded as the perpetrator of the abuse, rather than as the victim.

"We found evidence that Bijan Ebrahimi had been treated consistently differently from his neighbours, to his detriment and without reasonable explanation.

"Some of the evidence has the hallmarks of what could be construed as racial bias, conscious or unconscious."

PCSO Andrew Passmore (left) was jailed for four months while Pc Kevin Duffy got 10 months. Credit: PA

The IPCC has recommended that police officers and staff should be trained to recognise the potential for bias, while the force's leadership should send a "strong message" that discrimination is unacceptable.

Pc Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore were jailed at Bristol Crown Court last year after being convicted of misconduct in a public office.

They were dismissed from Avon and Somerset Police, along with Pcs Helen Harris and Leanne Winter.

In the hour before Mr Ebrahimi's murder, he called police for help.

But Winter told a call operator: "I'm absolutely not interested in speaking to him ever thanks ... I don't think anybody is to be honest, he's a pest."

The force has also conducted misconduct proceedings against 17 officers and civilian staff, resulting in outcomes including two officers receiving final written warnings.

Pc Leanne Winter (left) and Pc Helen Harris were sacked over their handling of the case. Credit: PA

Lead IPCC investigator John Simick said Mr Ebrahimi was "wrongly and unjustifiably" treated as a liar.

"Had his allegations in earlier years been recorded and investigated correctly, the truth of what he was enduring may have been discovered and, consequently, his murder may have been prevented," he adds.

"The failure to do so cannot be laid at the door of one officer or even the neighbourhood policing team.

"The extent of the failures and the degree to which they were apparent to others, including supervisors, are such that it might reasonably be said that the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, as an institution, must at least share the responsibility."

Andy Marsh, Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, apologised for failing Mr Ebrahimi "in his hour of need".

"We've made many changes since Mr Ebrahimi's murder in response to the things we learnt and identified to be in need of change," Mr Marsh said.

"Taken together, these changes have transformed the way we operate and we will do all in our power to prevent a repeat of the circumstances surrounding Mr Ebrahimi's death."