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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 19:59 GMT
Life for asylum seeker murder
Peyman Bahmani
Peyman Bahmani died from a stab wound to the chest
An 18-year-old youth has been jailed for the "wicked and shocking" murder of an asylum seeker in Sunderland.

Peyman Bahmani, 30, was stabbed to death in Hendon in August last year when a fight broke out between local youths and asylum seekers.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Steven Roberts committed the murder while on bail from a Scottish court for a previous machete attack.

Roberts, of Morvenside, Edinburgh, had denied murdering Mr Bahmani in August 2002, but was found guilty of the killing on Thursday.

He had admitted a further charge of affray relating to an alleged incident earlier the same day again involving Mr Bahmani and his friend Peyman Gahanbari.

Roberts was sentenced to life for murder, two years for assault and two and a half years for affray.

Steven Roberts
Roberts was out on bail at the time of the murder

Joseph Rutherford, 23, from Gray Road, and Gavin Gash, 27, from Hendon, were both cleared of assault charges.

Rutherford was found guilty of affray and will be sentenced at a later date.

Mr Bahmani first arrived in Sunderland in June 2000 where he worked as a waiter while his application for asylum was being processed.

He was planning to leave Sunderland to start a new life in Brighton, near his cousins, when he was murdered.

Roberts had travelled from Scotland to Sunderland on 28 August 2002 and went to his mother's home in Peel Street, Hendon.

Mr Bahmani was visiting friends on the same street when they were subjected to verbal abuse and threats by Roberts, later leading to a confrontation.

Witnesses saw Roberts walk calmly across the road with two large kitchen knives and approach the group, before the Mr Bahmani was stabbed.

Rutherford was arrested at the scene but Roberts fled to Scotland where he was arrested by officers 36 hours after the stabbing.

When I came to England I felt I would be safe here. But since my brother's death I don't feel safe, I feel vulnerable and afraid
Mitra Bahmani

The murder was treated as a racist incident based on evidence from Mr Bahmani's friends and accounts from witnesses.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Steve Bolam said: "During the affray, Roberts used what the judge said was shocking racial abuse. He said that there was no criminal offence of racially aggravated affray, but had there been Roberts would have been guilty of it.

"Roberts didn't know any of the Iranian men, least of all the deceased, and attacked them for no reason.

"He is a dangerous man."

Following the death of Mr Bahmani and during the murder investigation tensions mounted in the city.

Police worked closely with the family of the murdered man as well as numerous agencies and local groups.

'Terrible tragedy'

Mr Nadeem Ahmad, North East Consortium for Asylum Support Services, said: "Out of shock came the excellent response by a host of agencies in providing support to the deceased's family, the urgency to ensure the incident was investigated and the need to maintain positive community relations in the region."

Mr Bahmani's sister, Mitra, said her brother's death had devastated their family.

She said: "Peyman's murder has completely shattered my life... this has been a terrible tragedy for my family and the Iranian community.

"When I came to England I felt I would be safe here. But since my brother's death I don't feel safe, I feel vulnerable and afraid.

"I hope that Peyman's painful death is not in vain. Let's hope it teaches us to love one another and to extend a hand of solidarity and compassion to those fleeing terror and misery."

Iranian died 'defending friends'
04 Mar 03 |  England
Asylum seeker movement halted
17 Sep 02 |  England

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