Attacker who set fire to mosque worshippers given indefinite hospital order

Attacker who set fire to mosque worshippers given indefinite hospital order

A mentally ill man who set light to elderly worshippers as they made their way home from mosques in London and Birmingham has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order.

Mohammed Abbkr was found guilty last year by majority 11-1 verdicts of attempting to murder Hashi Odowa, 82, in Ealing and 70-year-old Mohammed Rayaz in Edgbaston three weeks later.

Jurors convicted the 29-year-old, of Gillott Road, Edgbaston, at Birmingham Crown Court after hearing how he believed someone had “performed magic on him” and he was being persecuted by a mind-reader.

The two-week trial was told Abbkr, who was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, told his first victim: “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me.”

Passing sentence on Wednesday, Judge Melbourne Inman KC told Abbkr: “The nature of each attack was identical. You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight – the attacks were horrific.

Mohammed Abbkr court case
CCTV footage showed Mohammed Abbkr following his victim Mohammed Rayaz (West Midlands Police/PA)

“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random. You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.

“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offences at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”

The judge imposed the hospital order after being told it will mean Abbkr is treated at a high security hospital, and cannot be released or even transferred to a less secure unit without permission from the Ministry of Justice.

Abbkr’s trial was told he used a lighter and petrol in a water bottle to set fire to Mr Odowa and Mr Rayaz on February 27 and March 20 last year respectively.

Mohammed Abbkr court case
The burned clothing of Mohammed Rayaz after the attack (West Midlands Police/PA)

Originally from Sudan, Abbkr came to the UK in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later.

He appeared for his sentencing hearing by video-link to the Ashworth high security mental health hospital in Merseyside, and was assisted by an Arabic interpreter.

Both attacks were caught on CCTV, which was shown during Abbkr’s trial.

During legal submissions on behalf of Abbkr prior to sentence, defence KC Bernard Tetlow said of the offences: “Everything is attributable to the schizophrenia and the psychotic symptoms he was suffering at the time the offences were committed.

“There is nothing to suggest that drug or alcohol abuse has contributed in any way, either to the mental illness or to his behaviour.

Mohammed Abbkr court case
CCTV caught Abbkr in Ealing before his attack on 82-year-old Hashi Odowa (West Midlands Police/PA)

“Everything, in the view of the psychiatrists, is uniquely attributable to the ongoing mental illness.”

The court heard Abbkr, who is likely to require lifelong treatment for his condition, had been assessed by four psychiatrists, who all agreed his behaviour was overwhelmingly related to an untreated psychotic illness.

During his sentencing remarks, Judge Inman said it was clear a painstaking police inquiry had found no evidence of any religious or ideological extremism on the part of Abbkr.

Commenting after the case, Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “These were horrific acts of violence against two elderly members of the public as they left mosques.

“Mohammed Abbkr’s actions resulted in severe injuries and psychological trauma to his victims and caused considerable shock and concern to the communities in London and Birmingham.

“I hope today’s sentence provides some reassurance to all those affected.”

Mohammed Ayaz, the eldest son of Mr Rayaz, said in a statement: “Seeing my father on the evening of March 20 in the burned state he was in was just an awful and unbearable thing to see.”

Describing how he felt at seeing his father’s beard burned off and his eyes and lips swollen, Mr Ayaz added: “No words can describe that moment the emotions which I was feeling, I felt so helpless and weak.

“My elderly mother is still traumatised and thinks that the attacker will be released early to come back to finish the job.”

Another son of Mr Rayaz, Adnaan Riaz, told the court before sentence: “Never a moment of the day goes past that I do not think about this heinous attack, which runs through my head daily.”

Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai, of Birmingham Police, said: “These were absolutely horrific attacks which almost defy belief in their apparent randomness and severity.

“Counter-terrorism officers were initially called in to investigate, given the nature of the attacks. While they have continued the investigation, we have found no evidence that Abbkr was motivated by a particular ideology, and so this has not been treated as a terrorist attack.

“The courage of the victims and their families has been exceptional. They have been left with physical and emotional wounds that they may never recover from.”