Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 17:09 UK

Murder accused changes trial plea

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Mohammed Raja Shafiq died trying to protect his son

A 21-year-old man charged with the murder of a father-of-seven in a Lancashire park has changed his plea to guilty, five days into his trial.

Mohammed Raja Shafiq, 50, died trying to protect his son, Umar, in a fight in Thompson Park, Burnley, in March.

On Friday at Manchester Crown Court, defendant Mohammed Bilal Bhatti admitted the attack on Mr Shafiq.

Mr Shafiq, of Nelson, Lancashire, was stabbed in the stomach and suffered a fractured skull. He died of blood loss.

Omar Khalid, 19, Shahdab Akhtar, 19, and his brother Shazad Akhtar, 17, also changed their pleas on Friday.

Shazad Akhtar pleaded guilty to manslaughter and violent disorder. Shahdab Akhtar and Khalid, both 19, pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Mohammed Bhatti
You have committed matters so grave that a loss of liberty is inevitable
Mr Justice Henriques

Mr Shafiq died going to his son's aid at a pre-arranged fight with other members of nearby Burnley College, the court heard.

The fight involved Shahdab Akhtar, who at the time was allegedly threatening Umar Shafiq to get him to drop assault charges.

Prosecutor Louise Blackwell QC told the jury: "Mr Raja Shafiq's intention was to speak to Shahdab, and what he wanted was to resolve this ongoing problem but without resorting to a fight."

All four defendants went to the park armed, the court heard.

Shazad Akhtar hit Mr Shafiq over the head with the metal bar, fracturing his skull, before Bhatti stabbed him in the stomach.

The four men ran off and Bhatti later showed off the bloodstained knife in a car and boasted about how he was "cool" for carrying out the attack.

Mr Justice Henriques told them: "You have committed matters so grave that a loss of liberty is inevitable, so bear that in mind."

All four were remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on 26 September.

Shahdab Akhtar, Omar Khalid, Shazad Akhtar
The three others also changed their pleas on Friday

Speaking after the hearing, the victim's son Umar said: "Four people intended to kill that day, it was cold blooded murder and they should be punished accordingly."

The 18-year-old said his family was pleased Bhatti had finally owned up, but were disappointed Shazad Akhtar pleaded guilty to manslaughter and not murder.

The family has now moved to the south of England, with Mr Shafiq's wife admitting it was through fear of what could happen if they remained.

She said: "We have moved because we were worried that there would be repercussions.

"My children's education has been affected and we are having to try and rebuild our lives.

"We hope the legal system will not let us down when they are sentenced and we hope the local community support us."

Det Insp Peter Broome of Lancashire Police, said there had been a "degree of justice" in the case.

"This was an unnecessary, brutal, sustained attack on an innocent man by a number of people who showed no respect for life that day in March.

"The level of violence that escalated in such a short space of time was despicable."




SEE ALSO
Police 'failed' on victim's call
05 Sep 08 |  Lancashire
Stab victim's son reveals dispute
02 Sep 08 |  Lancashire
Man killed while protecting son
01 Sep 08 |  Lancashire

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