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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 10:18 GMT
Gang's 'drink fuelled rampage'
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Three British-born Pakistani men are facing life sentences after being convicted of murdering a white graduate in London while drunk. BBC News Website looks at the case in detail.

Imran Maqsood
Imran Maqsood's parents had no idea he drank or had a girlfriend

Three young men get very drunk, shout racist abuse, assault a waiter in a curry house and get involved in a series of brawls, climaxing with an attack on an innocent man who crosses their path.

It sounds like a night of violence of the type which blights the name of many city centres.

Except that the victim, 30-year-old graduate Christopher Yates, was white, and the killers were all British-born Pakistani men from Muslim families.

Binge drinking

On Tuesday Imran Maqsood, 21, and his friends Zahid Bashir, 23, and 25-year-old Sajid Zulfiqar were found guilty of murder.

Sentenced on Thursday, Judge Martin Stephens QC told them they must serve at least 15 years for the attack.

Maqsood, Bashir and Zulfiqar eschewed their parents' religion and culture - although they paid lip service to it - and chose instead to set out on a night of drink fuelled violence that is sadly all too familiar.

Christopher Yates
It was a ferocious attack...In particular his head was stamped on with some force
Anthony Leonard QC

The Old Bailey heard that on 7 November last year the three men got drunk on beer and brandy in the West End before heading back towards their homes in Ilford, east London.

Mr Yates, a data inputter, dropped a female friend off at a bus stop and then took a short cut through the car park of the University of East London in Barking.

There he found Zulfiqar, Bashir and Maqsood, who were still drinking.

Without provocation they knocked him to the ground and began kicking and stamping on his head.

Afterwards one witness said she heard Zulfiqar saying in Urdu: "We killed the white man."

Another witness overheard them say: "That will teach the white man for interfering in Paki business."

'Ferocious attack'

Mr Yates died of extensive fracturing of the facial bones, caused by multiple kicking and stamping.

Anthony Leonard QC, prosecuting, said: "It was a ferocious attack...In particular his head was stamped on with some force...When the assault was over the defendants moved to a nearby road where they damaged several vehicles and set off car alarms as well as threatening householders."

Sajid Zulfiqar
Sajid Zulfiqar shouted "We killed a white man"
They racially abused a black resident and then moved on to a curry house where they assaulted an Asian waiter.

While the attack on Mr Yates may have had the hallmarks of racism, judge Martin Stephens said the evidence suggested otherwise.

"Between you that morning, you attacked people of all races, white, black and Asian," he said.

"These, in my judgment, were random attacks carried out on people who had the misfortune to come across you in your drink-fuelled rampage."

Giving evidence, Maqsood said: "We were all drunk and acting like idiots in the City. I had a few fights in the City. I acted like an idiot at the Ali curry house but the bottom line is I didn't hurt Mr Yates."

They posed a "cut-throat" defence, all seeking to blame each other for Mr Yates' murder.

Secret girlfriend

The trial painted a picture of three men whose drinking and womanising was kept secret from their families.

The Old Bailey heard Maqsood's parents had no idea he drank alcohol and he even had a secret girlfriend, Sophie Shah.

Defence counsel, David Nathan, asked: "Were your parents aware of the relationship you had been having with Sophie Shah?"

Zahid Bashir
Bashir and his friends fled to Yorkshire
Maqsood, who was born in Burnley, Lancashire, replied: "No. It's something I wouldn't do [tell them]. In our religion you don't tell your parents. They might get upset."

Mr Nathan asked: "Was the relationship you were having something which was approved of in your religion before marriage?"

"No," Maqsood replied.

Ms Shah broke up with him while he was on remand at Belmarsh prison and she gave evidence at his trial, claiming he had confessed to his involvement in the killing of Mr Yates.

Fled to Yorkshire

After the killing the men fled to Yorkshire and stayed at a friend's hotel in Pontefract.

Comments were made which could be perceived as racist but whether it was racially-motivated is something which only the defendants will know
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Boxall
Police believe they were planning to flee the country from Manchester Airport, which has daily flights to Pakistan.

Mr Leonard said: "All three men were concerned that this would be made out to be a racist incident."

The court heard that a hotel porter overheard them discussing the reaction in the Muslim community, which would be outraged because they had been drinking alcohol during Ramadan.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Boxall, who led the inquiry, said the incident was initially treated as a racially motivated attack.

But he said: "Although classed as a racial incident there is no direct evidence it was racially motivated.

"Comments were made (by the killers) which could be perceived as racist but whether it was racially-motivated is something which only the defendants will know."

A fourth man, Junaid Khan, who admitted stealing Mr Yates' mobile phone while he lay on the ground, was sentenced earlier this year.


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