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The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
"The Mubarek family is angry at the catalgoue of errors"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 18:27 GMT
Racist prison killer gets life
Feltham Young Offenders Institution
Zahid Mubarek died just hours before his release
A prisoner has been found guilty of bludgeoning to death his Asian cellmate in a racist attack.

Robert Stewart, 20, was sentenced to life for battering Zahid Mubarek around the head with a table leg at Feltham Young Offenders Institution in west London.


Zahid Mubarek was bludgeoned to death
Mr Mubarek, 19, of Walthamstow, north east London, was attacked just hours before he was due to be released after a 90-day sentence for dishonesty. He died a week later.

Stewart, of Costabadie Close, Hattersley, Greater Manchester, had denied murdering his cellmate on 21 March this year.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Grigson told Stewart: "As you are a danger to yourself and a danger to the public, custody for life is wholly appropriate."

Racist letters

Earlier Sir John Nutting QC, for the prosecution, recalled how the 20-year-old had written a series of racist letters to friends before the attack.

In one, he had threatened to resort to killing his cellmate to be transferred to the north west "to see some old friends, white ones".


Why was a known racist sharing a cell with an Asian?

Imran Khan, solicitor
Asked why he attacked Mr Mubarek, Stewart denied the assault was racially motivated, telling the jury: "I don't know, I just felt like it," he told the court.

Speaking outside the court, the victim's father spoke of the "bright future" his son had had ahead of him and how he had planned to join the army.

Although he expressed his relief at the jury's verdict, he said he did not feel happy because his son could not be replaced.

Call for inquiry

"An apology from the Prison Service is not enough," he said and asked for more information surrounding his son's treatment and his death.

Solicitor Imran Khan, representing Mr Mubarek's family, called for an immediate inquiry into the attack.

"Why was a known racist sharing a cell with an Asian?" he asked.


Our procedures failed to unearth the racism in his correspondence

Martin Narey, Prison Service director general
"His family have suffered a double tragedy - firstly that he was killed by a racist and secondly that this could so easily have been avoided."

Feltham and the Prison Service must accept their share of responsibility for Mr Mubarek's murder, he said, and accused both organisations of negligence and institutionalised racism.

The Metropolitan Police is understood to have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide if any charges should be brought against staff at the institution, for failing to avert the murder.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Mcaleenan described the attack as "unprovoked and vicious" and said Stewart was "a dangerous man who showed no remorse".

"Our sympathy is with Mr Mubarek's family," he said.

Prison service apology

The director general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, apologised to Mr Mubarek's family.


You are a danger to yourself and a danger to the public

Mr Justice Grigson
Staff at Feltham remembered him as a "nice lad", he said.

"Zahid Mubarek's murder was a wicked crime by someone whom we now know to be a racist," Mr Narey said.

There was nothing in Stewart's conduct to indicate this at the time, he said, but "our procedures failed to unearth the racism in his correspondence".

"This was a failure which we deeply regret."

New procedures being piloted at Feltham would have ensured Stewart was held separately, he added.

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