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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Racist cell murder probe ordered
Zahid Mubarek
Zahid Mubarek shared a cell with Stewart for six weeks
A High Court judge will head an inquiry into the murder of an Asian teenager by his racist cellmate at a youth jail, the home secretary has announced.

Mr Justice Keith will lead the judicial inquiry into Zahid Mubarek's death at Feltham Young Offenders' Institution in west London four years ago.

It will look at events leading to the murder and advise on how to prevent future attacks, David Blunkett said.

The Mubarek family has campaigned for a full public investigation since 2000.

The 19-year-old, a first-time prisoner convicted of theft, was beaten to death with a table leg the day before he was due to be released.

His cellmate, Robert Stewart, of Tameside, Greater Manchester, was jailed for life in October 2001.

Evidence presented at his trial revealed Stewart to be a seriously disturbed individual with a Ku Klux Klan sign in his cell.

Robert Stewart
Gonna nail bomb Bradford, Moss Side - all the non white areas
Zahid Mubarek's killer, Robert Stewart

After his racist letters were intercepted, a prison officer recorded: "Very dangerous individual. Be careful."

The Prison Service admitted failing to protect Mr Mubarek and a Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) report found he would not have died if he was white.

Last year the Law Lords ordered the home secretary to set up a public inquiry.

On Thursday Mr Blunkett announced it would start immediately and would be headed by Mr Justice Keith, 60.

He will be assisted by three experts on race, prison operations and matters affecting prisoners.

But a family friend told the BBC they still had concerns about its scope.

Suresh Grover said: "Instead of a statutory inquiry which would compel all witnesses to attend, the home secretary is likely to announce a non-statutory inquiry.

"But make no mistake about it, this is an unprecedented achievement by the family that follows a very long struggle."

Zahid's family and legal team have compared the case to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and say a full inquiry will act as a wake-up call to the prison authorities.

Mr Grover said: "Why was a self-confessed racist psychopath put in a cell with an Asian prisoner? No inquiry has answered that."

The CRE has welcomed the inquiry.

Its report last July found the Prison Service was guilty of racial discrimination in failing to protect Mr Mubarek - but said most of the 20 areas of failure by the service were not directly to do with race.

Three months after the report's publication, the House of Lords ruled that Mr Blunkett was wrong to refuse to order an inquiry into his death.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"It has taken until now for the home office to announce the inquiry"



SEE ALSO:
Inquiry into racist cell murder
16 Oct 03  |  London
Prison 'failures' over killing
09 Jul 03  |  London
'Rotten' youth jail is improving
15 Oct 02  |  England
Governor fears more cell deaths
11 Mar 01  |  UK News
Racist prison killer gets life
01 Nov 00  |  UK News


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