Man found guilty of setting fire to two men outside mosques

Image above: Mohammed Abbkr

Attacker responsible for attack on man in Ealing earlier this year

A 29-year-old man, Mohammed Abbkr, has been found guilty of two counts of attempted murder at Birmingham Crown Court for a shocking and horrifying series of attacks on elderly worshippers outside mosques in London and Birmingham.

Jurors reached their verdict by a majority of 11-1 after more than seven hours of deliberation over two days. Abbkr’s set fire to elderly worshippers who had just left mosques in Ealing and Edgbaston in February and March this year.

The court heard that Abbkr had initially prayed with the congregation before waiting for his victims, Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70. He then callously followed both men, spraying them with petrol from a water bottle and using a lighter to set them ablaze.

The first attack occurred on 27 February, when Abbkr set fire to Mr. Odowa as he was on his way to a neighbour’s car outside the West Ealing Islamic Centre. Fortunately, Mr. Odowa suffered only minor burn injuries to his ear and hand.

In the second attack, Abbkr attended evening prayers at Dudley Road Mosque and sat near Mr. Rayaz. After the prayers, he followed his victim along the streets, asking him whether he spoke Arabic. When Mr. Rayaz responded in Urdu and Punjabi, Abbkr sprayed him with a liquid from a bottle, resulting in Mr. Rayaz being engulfed in flames.

Image above: CCTV outside the Birmingham mosque during one of the attacks

Attacker suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, court hears

Abbkr arrived in the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later. He denied two counts of attempted murder and two alternative counts of maliciously administering a destructive substance to endanger life. Jurors had the challenging task of determining whether he intended to kill his victims and whether he knew what he was doing was wrong.

The court heard evidence from psychiatrists who testified that Abbkr was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attacks. Abbkr claimed that he believed those he set on fire were among several people “controlling him through magic” and insisted that he did not expect them to be harmed.

The prosecution urged the jury to reject the insanity defence, arguing that Abbkr knew what he was doing was wrong and that he intended to kill his victims.

Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai from West Midlands Police revealed that both victims suffered “long-lasting physical injuries and significant mental trauma” as a result of the attacks.

Although counter-terrorism officers were involved in the investigation leading up to Ramadan, no motive has been identified. The officer stated:

“This was not treated as a terrorist incident. To date, there is no evidence of an ideology. 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.”