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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Timeline: Zahid Mubarek case
The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry began in 2004 after a long legal battle by the family.

The inquiry heard from 62 witnesses, as well as receiving 143 statements. More than 15,000 pages of documents passed through the inquiry. Although the evidence sessions were limited to exploring how and why Robert Stewart came to kill Zahid Mubarek, later sessions considered some of the themes behind the death and what lessons could be learnt in the prison system.

This timeline has two parts:

Events leading up to the death and afterwards
The inquiry's evidence 2004-05

Events leading up to the death

23 October 1980

Zahid Mubarek born in London at Whipps Cross Hospital. In his teenage years he begins to develop a drug problem and is eventually arrested for petty crimes.

17 January 2000

The teenager is sent to Feltham Young Offenders Institute after being found guilty of stealing razors and interfering with a motor vehicle.

8 February 2000

Robert Stewart, a prolific offender from the Manchester area, is moved into the same cell as Zahid Mubarek. He is noticed by other inmates for his odd behaviour.

21 March 2000

Zahid Mubarek is preparing to come home at the end of his sentence. Hours before his release, Stewart takes a table leg and batters his cellmate. He then presses the cell alarm button.

28 March 2000

Seven days later, Zahid Mubarek dies in hospital from his injuries. Stewart is charged with his murder.

November 2000

Robert Stewart is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life. He is found to be a psychopath and the trial uncovers evidence of his racist tendencies. Three weeks after his jailing, the Commission for Racial Equality announces it will hold its own investigation into the events. This inquiry proves controversial from the beginning as it widens into a far-reaching examination of racism in prisons.

4 September 2001

The family goes to the High Court to force the home secretary to hold an independent public inquiry. Mr Justice Hooper agrees with the family, saying David Blunkett has failed in his duty to take into account his obligations under the Human Rights Act.

March 2002

The Court of Appeal throws out the earlier decision, siding with the home secretary. The judges say there is no need under Human Rights law to hold an inquiry because it had been proven the Prison Service had been at fault, an internal inquiry had been carried out and Robert Stewart had been jailed for the murder.

October 2002

The prisons watchdog sends a team inside Feltham. It concludes that the jail had fundamentally changed and was "off the critical list".

July 2003

The CRE finally publishes its report into Zahid Mubarek's death, amid criticism over its conclusions and the time taken to reach them. CRE chairman Trevor Phillips says he is convinced the teenager would not have died had he been white. The report says there was a "shocking catalogue of failure" within the Prison Service. The family rejects the report, saying it is flawed and leaves them none the wiser as to why Zahid was sharing a cell with Stewart.

October 2003

The family turn to the highest court in the land - the House of Lords. Lord Bingham, sitting with Lords Slynn, Steyn, Hope and Hutton, overturns the Court of Appeal and sides with the family. They order the Home Secretary to hold an inquiry. The state has a duty to investigate the death because it had come from prison failings.

28 April 2004

Home Secretary David Blunkett announces the Zahid Mubarek inquiry.

The Zahid Mubarek inquiry

18 November 2004

Public inquiry into death of Zahid Mubarek begins with the chairman Mr Justice Keith saying the critical focus will be establishing how and why Robert Stewart came to be sharing a cell with the teenager. Nigel Giffin QC, counsel for the inquiry, says that the authorities missed 14 opportunities to identify the risk that Stewart posed. Prison service officials knew that he had sent racist letters and been involved in an earlier jail killing.

Crucially, Mr Giffin said that the inquiry would not discount the possibility that institutional racism within the Prison Service or more directly Feltham contributed to Zahid's death.

23 November 2004

The inquiry hears that Feltham prison officers intercepted a letter sent by Stewart in which the inmate threatened "pakis" and "niggers". Prison officer Deborah Hogg ordered Stewart to rewrite the letter. She told the inquiry the prison was suffering from having too few officers dealing with too many prisoners. Ms Hogg conceded officers were confused over how to deal with racism in prison.

23 November 2004

Prison officer Steven Martindale tells the inquiry that Feltham did not take racist incidents seriously. Officers considered Robert Stewart dangerous, but not necessarily a racist. He already had a recorded history of violent behaviour and his security file, passed between prisons when an inmate is transferred, was one of the biggest the officers had read. Stewart had been initially placed in a single cell on the "gut feeling" of staff.

25 November 2004

Long-standing Feltham officer David Comber tells the inquiry of documents relating to the night of the death going missing. He also explains that prison records, such as security files on the risks posed by inmates arriving from other jails, regularly arrived days after the individual.

26 November 2004

Zahid Mubarek's father, Amin, tells inquiry his son had feared his cellmate was racist and had asked to be moved. Mr Mubarek said his family believed they were treated differently on visits because they were Asian.

Same day: Note on institutional racism

Inquiry chairman Mr Justice Keith clarifies that the inquiry will not be into institutional racism, but that he accepted the generally held view that prisons, including Feltham, were institutionally racist at the time of the killing, and this would inform his report.

3 December 2004

Sundeep Chahal, the only Asian prison officer at the jail when the killing happened, said he had not experienced a culture of racism at Feltham.

6 December 2004

In written evidence to the inquiry, Robert Stewart admits "racial prejudice" played a part in his attack on Zahid Mubarek but says he had not intended to kill his cellmate.

10 December 2004

Senior Feltham prison officer Keith Greenslade tells inquiry staff were "ignorant" or na´ve about race issues that went under-reported and that an officer could have deliberately housed a racist with a black or Asian inmate.

He added however that there was a general unwritten rule of trying to separate prisons on ethnic lines in the hope that this would prevent clashes.

20 December 2004

Officer Keith Denman tells the inquiry that conditions were appalling at Feltham with prisoners and staff utterly demoralised. Feltham was so chaotic the personnel department did not know how many staff worked at the jail. His criticism reflected the widely-reported 1998 conclusions of Sir David Ramsbotham, the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

22 December 2004

Robert Stewart was left with Zahid Mubarek for four minutes after the attack, despite having calmly pressed the alarm to alert prison officers to what he had done.

Hounslow Race Equality Council warns that racism is widespread at Feltham after interviewing inmates and staff.

6 January 2004

Two home secretaries - Michael Howard and Jack Straw - were warned of the appalling conditions at Feltham. The prison's independent monitoring board told the ministers that violence was flourishing. Lucy Bogue, former chair of visitors, said the organisation had received a response from then Anne Widdecombe, prisons minister in 1996, but nothing from Jack Straw's office in 1997. She said both the Prison Service and Prison Officers' Association had to shoulder the blame for the state of the prison.

12 January 2005

In evidence to the inquiry, former Feltham governor Niall Clifford - headhunted to improve the young offenders institute - says the Prison Officers' Association (POA) had been "determined to avoid change" and relations with officers were "poor". The inquiry learns that Mr Clifford left the jail after being promoted two-months after the killing. A report into prison management by Lord Laming, published after the killing, cited Mr Clifford's move as an example of how frequent movement of governors damaged prisons.

13 January 2005

Nicholas Pascoe, a former Feltham governor, reveals that three white officers were given a written warning but not sacked after handcuffing an ethnic minority inmate to his cell bars, removing his trousers and smearing black boot polish on his buttocks.

18 January 2005

Nurse Linsey Martin, based at HMP Hindley, tells the inquiry that she feared Stewart was violent when he was held there, but did not act on her gut feeling.

25 January 2005

Psychiatric nurse Christopher Kinealy concluded months before the killing that Stewart had an untreatable mental condition. Stewart had a "long-standing deep-seated personality disorder. He shows a glaring lack of remorse, insight, foresight or any other emotion." Two expert witnesses called by the inquiry, Professors John Gunn and Anthony Maden, suggested that Stewart should have been treated, even if there was little chance of success.

Critically, the pair agreed that Stewart was so mentally unstable and dangerous that he could have killed anyone and that the death was not necessarily racially motivated.

7 February 2005

Martin Narey, the then head of the prison service, says he nearly quit over the death, saying he believed it had been preventable.

25 February 2005

Inquiry hears that Robert Stewart wrote to a friend, also a killer, saying that he wanted to commit the first murder of the millennium. The letter was sent shortly before Stewart was transferred to Feltham in early 2000.

3 March 2005

The inquiry hears claims of the so-called "Coliseum" gladiator games at Feltham during which some officers allegedly put together prisoners they believed likely to fight. The allegation was first made by prison officer Duncan Keys in an anonymous call to the Commission for Racial Equality. The police were unable to substantiate the claim. However, in the inquiry's later seminar sessions, evidence emerged from some officers that such gladiatorial betting had taken place in some prisons.

4 March 2005

Nigel Herring, a POA branch chairman at Feltham, denies organising "gladiator-style" fights between inmates of different races.

9 March 2005

Prisons race adviser Judy Clements tells the inquiry that ethnic minority prisoners were routinely racially abused across the country and that officers were in complete denial about the crisis. She added however that since coming into the post the Prison Service had begun to take the issue seriously.

11 March 2005

An Asian inmate was badly beaten at Feltham weeks before Zahid's death.

Summer 2005

HMIP Anne Owers reports on Feltham. Conditions much improved, including relationships between staff and inmates. Some systems now working much better than in other prisons. Considerable improvement in race relations, largely thanks to the governor's input. Safety systems improved although some prisoners felt they were victimised.

However, she also raises concerns about the continuing poor treatment of mentally ill prisoners, including the suicidal.

"Feltham is undoubtedly a different establishment from the one that attracted so much attention and criticism in the past ... serious and underlying problems have been tackled."


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