Man accused of attacking worshippers allegedly told first victim ‘you will know me’

Court artist sketch of Mohammed Abbkr Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA Archive/PA Images

A man accused of trying to murder two elderly men after they left mosques in Birmingham and London allegedly told his first victim: “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me.”

Mohammed Abbkr is accused of injuring the two victims using lit petrol in Ealing, west London, on 27 February and Birmingham on 20 March.

Jurors trying Abbkr were told he used a lighter and petrol contained in a water bottle to set fire to 82-year-old Hashi Odowa and Mohammed Rayaz, 70.

Abbkr, who came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later, denies two counts of attempted murder and two alternative counts of maliciously administering a destructive thing to endanger life.

The 29-year-old, of Gillott Road, Edgbaston, was assisted in the dock by an Arabic interpreter as the Crown’s case was opened at Birmingham Crown Court by Nicholas de la Poer KC on Monday.

Mohammed Rayaz was set on fire as he left Dudley Road Mosque in Birmingham Credit: Family handout/PA

Mr de la Poer told jurors Mr Odowa suffered minor burn injuries to his ear and hand after being set on fire as he made his way to a neighbour’s car outside West Ealing Islamic Centre in west London.

The Crown’s barrister told the court: “The defendant, Mohammed Abbkr, also attended evening prayers that night at the West Ealing Islamic Centre.

“He followed Mr Odowa from the entrance door of the centre, catching up with him as he made his way to (his neighbour’s) car.”

Mr de la Poer added: “There followed a conversation during which the defendant insisted that Mr Odowa knew him. Mr Odowa told the defendant that he did not.

“Once they reached the vehicle (the victim’s neighbour) asked the defendant to leave Mr Odowa alone.

“The fact that Mr Odowa did not recognise the defendant appears to have provoked the defendant into action.

“The defendant said ‘I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me’.

“He then sprayed Mr Odowa with a pale-coloured liquid, aiming for his head. The defendant had brought the liquid with him in a clear plastic water bottle.

“Having sprayed Mr Odowa with petrol, the defendant drew out a lighter, struck the lighter, held it to Mr Odowa’s neck and ignited the petrol.

“Shortly after setting Mr Odowa on fire, the defendant walked away.”

Describing the attack on the second victim, Mr de la Poer continued: “Weeks later, and slightly more than 100 miles away, a man called Mohammed Rayaz attended evening prayers.

“His chosen place of worship was the Dudley Road Mosque.

“Apparently praying near him that evening was the defendant. In the course of their time in the prayer hall, the defendant looked at Mr Rayaz a number of times.”

When prayers had concluded, Mr de la Poer said, Abbkr waited for Mr Rayaz to pass by and followed him at a distance of just a few metres for more than five minutes.

He then took the same clear plastic bottle from a rucksack, approached Mr Rayaz in Shenstone Road, placed a hand on Mr Rayaz’s shoulder and asked him if he spoke Arabic.

Mr de la Poer told the jury: “The defendant then sprayed Mr Rayaz with the petrol.

“Using a lighter, the defendant set fire to the petrol. Mr Rayaz was engulfed in flame.”

The court was told that, as the initial flare of the fire began to diminish, the defendant threw more petrol from his bottle onto the flames and they “grew in size and intensity once again”.

During the first stage of his opening speech, Mr de la Poer told the jurors that the trial is not one in which they will be asked to determine the identity of the attacker.

“It is important you know from the outset that the defendant admits that he is the person who set both Mr Odowa and Mr Rayaz on fire,” he said.

The trial continues.

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