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Man, 29, guilty of setting two elderly Muslim worshippers on fire outside mosques in London and Birmingham
6 November 2023, 16:52 | Updated: 6 November 2023, 17:32
Am man has been found guilty of attempted murder after setting two elderly worshippers on fire outside mosques in London and Birmingham.
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Mohammed Abbkr, 29, was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder at Birmingham Crown Court after setting fire to elderly worshippers who had left mosques in London and Edgbaston in February and March this year.
Jurors convicted Abbkr by majority 11-1 verdicts after deliberating for more than seven hours over two days.
Abbkr had prayed with the congregation before waiting for victims Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70. He followed both men before spraying them with petrol from a water bottle and using a lighter to set them on fire.
Birmingham Crown Court was told Abbkr set fire to Mr Odowa on 27 February as he made his way to a neighbour's car outside West Ealing Islamic Centre, in west London. He suffered minor burn injuries to his ear and hand.
In the second attack, jurors were told how Abbkr attended evening prayers at Dudley Road Mosque and sat near to Mr Rayaz.
Mr Odowa suffered minor burn injuries to his ear and hand after being set on fire as he made his way to a neighbour’s car outside West Ealing Islamic Centre
CCTV from the Birmingham attack also captures both parties praying at Dudley Road Mosque on March 20.
Abbkr then follows the victim along the streets at the end of prayers and can be heard asking Mr Rayaz whether he speaks Arabic. When he says he speaks Urdu and Punjabi, Mr Rayaz can then be seen being sprayed with a liquid from a bottle before being engulfed in a ball of flames.
Abbkr, who came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later, had denied two counts of attempted murder and two alternative counts of maliciously administering a destructive thing to endanger life.
Jurors were told he admitted to setting the victims on fire but they had to determine whether he had intended to kill his victims and if he had known what he was doing and that it was wrong.
They heard evidence from psychiatrists who said he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attacks.
Abbkr told his trial he believed those he had set on fire were among several people "controlling him through magic" and claimed he did not expect them to have been hurt.
But the prosecution encouraged the jury to reject the defence of insanity, arguing that Abbkr had known what he was doing was wrong and had intended to kill his victims.
Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai, from West Midlands Police, said both men were left with "long-lasting physical injuries and significant mental trauma".
Counter-terrorism officers were involved in the investigation into the attacks in the run-up to Ramadan but no motive has been identified."This was not treated as a terrorist incident. To date there is no evidence of an ideology," the officer said.
"These were horrific unprovoked attacks on two men in their 70s and 80s who were leaving their local mosques and going home after their prayers."