Bijan Ebrahimi murder: Lee James jailed for life

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Media captionBijan Ebrahimi was killed and set alight following false rumours about him

A man has been jailed for life after admitting he murdered his disabled neighbour who had been wrongly branded a paedophile.

Lee James, 24, killed Bijan Ebrahimi and set fire to his body in the Brislington area of Bristol in July.

Mr Justice Simon ordered that James must serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.

Bristol Crown Court heard Mr Ebrahimi, who was an Iranian national and in his 40s, died from head injuries.

Stephen Norley, 25, who had admitted assisting an offender, was given a four-year jail term.

He helped James drag Mr Ebrahimi's body from the scene of the attack and obtained white spirit to burn the body. His remains were found 100m from his maisonette in Capgrave Crescent.

Nothing suspicious

Mr Ebrahimi was murdered on 14 July, three days after he was arrested by police following complaints that he had been taking pictures of children near his home.

Officers examined his camera, videos and computer but found nothing suspicious and he was released without charge.

The night before the killing Mr Ebrahimi recorded video of James holding a beer can and shouting at him after realising he was being filmed. Jurors were shown the video.

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Media captionThe court was shown footage shot by Bijan Ebrahimi as Lee James confronted him

In sentencing the pair, who both lived near the victim, the judge described the murder as "deeply shocking".

He said it was "a vigilante crime" and "an act of murderous injustice", adding that claims that Mr Ebrahimi was a paedophile were baseless.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Ebrahimi's sister, Manisha Moores, said: "The next question to be answered is whether Bijan's death could have been avoided if he received the proper protection he deserved from the authorities.

"Lessons must be learned before other vulnerable lives are lost."

'So much anger'

Prosecutor Andrew Langdon QC said neighbours witnessed the doorstep confrontation between James and Mr Ebrahimi.

He said: "Lee James was shouting at Mr Ebrahimi, telling him in abusive terms to stop taking pictures, to give him the camera, to delete the photographs.

"Mr James himself told one of the witnesses that Mr Ebrahimi had taken pictures of him with a can of beer in his hand.

"Mr Powell remembers Mr James saying 'I am going to burn his house down'.

"At one point Mr James entered Mr Ebrahimi's home uninvited and remonstrated with him and threatened him."

The court heard that during the fatal attack James repeatedly stamped on Mr Ebrahimi's head, shouting "have some of that".

Mr Langdon said that after murdering Mr Ebrahimi and burning his body, James told his girlfriend: "We sorted him out. We took care of things."

James, also of Capgrave Crescent, told police he had kicked Mr Ebrahimi "like a football... I had so much anger in me".

The court heard Mr Ebrahimi, who moved to the UK in 2001, made several calls to police in the 48 hours before his murder, but "those calls were not responded to".

Image caption Stephen Norley (left) admitted helping Lee James set Bijan Ebrahimi's body on fire

Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan issued an apology after the tragedy, saying: "Mr Ebrahimi was someone who deserved the protection of all of us and we are very sorry about what happened to him."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has interviewed six police officers and six civilian staff as part of their investigation into police contact prior to Mr Ebrahimi's death.

Three constables have been questioned over potential misconduct in public office.

An inspector, sergeant, constable, control room supervisor, dispatcher and four call handlers have been interviewed for gross misconduct.

The inspector is no longer subject to the investigation.

'Collective failure'

Mr Gargan said: "On the day of Mr Ebrahimi's murder, we knew enough about the police response to convince us that we should make an immediate referral to the IPCC.

"We still await their report and therefore it is not appropriate for me to say more about that police response. It's important that we don't affect that external scrutiny by expressing a public opinion.

"It could also be the case that criminal proceedings follow and if so a jury needs to reach its verdict based on evidence in the courtroom, not our opinion today.

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Media captionBijan Ebrahimi's sister Manisha Moores: "Lessons must be learned"

"Nevertheless... it is clear that there was a collective failure on the part of statutory agencies and others to protect Mr Ebrahimi.

"We need to have some frank and candid local discussions with our partners and our communities about what we collectively can do to stop this happening again.

"Senior people in our own organisation have already put in place urgent actions to improve the way we respond to the vulnerable, handle reports of anti-social behaviour and identify repeat callers and victims and we will continue to talk to partners to improve the way we work together to protect the public."

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "The tragic murder of Mr Ebrahimi has shocked and saddened me and I have critical questions for the police and other agencies about the events leading up to Mr Ebrahimi's death.

"While I am not going to draw any conclusions before the IPCC investigation and any other reviews are complete I am determined to look publicly at what could or should have been done differently."

The IPCC report and a report by the Safer Bristol Partnership are expected to be completed and made public early next year.

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