Jury hears man attempted to murder two elderly Muslim worshippers

Mohammed Abbkr trial at Birmingham Crown Court

A man attempted to murder two elderly Muslim worshippers by dousing them in petrol and setting them on fire outside mosques, a court heard.

Mohammed Abbkr, 29, is accused of targeting the first pensioner because he failed to recognise him, telling him – “I swear in the name of Allah you will know me.”

He then sprayed petrol on another fellow worshipper and left him ‘engulfed in flames’ in a separate attack as he did not speak Arabic, jurors were told.

Today (Monday, October 23) Abbkr went on trial charged with attempted murder and two counts of administering a destructive thing (namely petrol) with intent to endanger life.

Birmingham Crown Court heard victim Hashi Odowa was firstly targeted outside the West London Islamic Centre on Singapore Road, Ealing, London on February 27. The second victim, Mohammed Rayaz, 70, was attacked as he walked home from Dudley Road Mosque, in Birmingham, on March 20.

What was the jury told about the first allegation of attempted murder outside a mosque in Ealing London?

The court heard that an 82-year-old suffered severe burns after he had petrol squirted at him from a bottle Abbkr had taken to the mosque before being set on fire.

Nicholas de la Poer KC, prosecuting, said: “In February this year Hashi Odowa was a regular worshipper at the West Ealing Islamic Centre where is neighbour, Fahad Khan, also attended. The arrangement was that Mr Khan would give Mr Odowa, who was 82, a lift home.

“It was on February 27 Mr Odowa approached Mr Khan’s car at about 7.50pm, both men having observed evening prayers. The defendant also attended evening prayers that night at the West Ealing Islamic Centre.

“He followed Mr Odowa from the entrance and caught up with him. There followed a conversation during which the defendant insisted that Mr Odowa knew him. Mr Odowa told him he did not as they reached the vehicle where Mr Khan was waiting for Mr Odowa in the driver’s seat.

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“He asked the defendant to leave Mr Odowa alone. The defendant told Mr Khan to go away. The fact that Mr Odowa did not recognise the defendant appears to have provoked the defendant into action.”

Mr De la Poer said Abbkr then told the victim: “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me.” He added: “He then sprayed Mr Odowa with a light-coloured liquid, aiming for his head. The defendant had brought the liquid with him to the mosque in a plastic white bottle. The defendant then took out a lighter and struck the lighter holding it to Mr Odowa’s neck and igniting the petrol and walked away.”

What did the court hear about the second alleged attack outside a mosque in Birmingham?

Mr De la Poer told the court: “Exactly four weeks later, more than 100 miles away, a man called Mohammed Rayaz attended evening prayers. Mr Rayaz was 70 at the time. It was March 20. The chosen place of worship was the Dudley Road Mosque.

“Apparently praying near him was the defendant. During the course of their time in the hall the defendant looked at Mr Rayaz a number of times. When prayers had concluded the defendant waited for Mr Rayaz to pass him and then followed Mr Rayaz down the street. He followed Mr Rayaz for about five minutes.”

Mr De la Poer said Abbkr then took out a plastic bottle containing petrol from a rucksack and approached the victim on a quiet part of a residential street.

Mr De la Poer added: “The defendant placed his hand on Mr Rayaz’s shoulder. In the other he held the bottle. He asked Mr Rayaz if he spoke Arabic. Mr Rayaz explained that he did not. The defendant wanted to know why he did not speak Arabic. With his empty hand he reached out for Mr Rayaz’s neck area.

“Mr Rayaz attempted to walk away but the defendant was insistent. The defendant walked in front of him and continued to try and speak with Mr Rayaz who wanted to bring the encounter to an end. The defendant then sprayed Mr Rayaz with petrol from the bottle using the lighter to set fire to the petrol. Mr Rayaz was engulfed in flames. After the initial flare and fire began to diminish the defendant threw more petrol from the bottle.”

Mr De la Poer said this caused the flames to grow up again and that after Abbkr stood watching for a short time he walked away. The prosecutor said that fortunately the first victim only suffered minor burns to his ear and hand. The court heard Abbkr came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 and was granted asylum in 2019.

Abbkr, from Edgbaston, Birmingham, has admitted he was the person who set fire to the victims but denies the charges against him. The trial continues.


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