Cops in court over vigilante murder

Left: Victim Bijan Ebrahim and Right: Lee James who murdered him (r), and Stephen Norley (l) who assisted James
Left: Victim Bijan Ebrahim and Right: Lee James who murdered him (r), and Stephen Norley (l) who assisted James

Three police constables and a community support officer have appeared in court charged over the treatment of a disabled man murdered by a vigilante in Bristol.

Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, was beaten to death and his body set on fire by neighbour Lee James, who wrongly believed he was a paedophile, in Bristol on July 14 2013.

James, of Capgrave Crescent, Brislington, was later jailed for life for the murder, while Stephen Norley, who lived next door, was jailed for four years for assisting an offender.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service in October 2014 into how officers responded to events and contact from Mr Ebrahimi.

Police constables Kevin Duffy, 51, Helen Harris, 40 and Leanne Winter, 37, all of Avon and Somerset Police, were charged with wilful misconduct in a public office.

Police community support officer Andrew Passmore, 55, was charged with wilful misconduct in a public office and intending to pervert the course of justice.

All four defendants appeared in front of Judge Neil Ford QC, the Recorder of Bristol, for a preliminary hearing at Bristol Crown Court today.

They did not enter any charges or speak during the short hearing and the case was adjourned after a trial, expected to last up to six weeks, was scheduled for November 9.

The judge told the defendants: “The case will now be adjourned and you will be released on unconditional bail.

“That simply means you must attend court when you are next required to do so, that is the plea and case management hearing on May 29.”

The defendants’ addresses were withheld from the court following representations from their barristers at a previous hearing.

The judge acknowledged that the death of Mr Ebrahimi had attracted a “national profile” and he could see no difficulty with a trial being held in Bristol.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Ebrahimi, an Iranian national, suffered “multiple heavy blows to the face and head” and died before he was set alight.

James and Norley were jailed at Bristol Crown Court in November last year after entering guilty pleas to murder and assisting an offender respectively.

The court heard Mr Ebrahimi was murdered three days after he had been arrested by police, following complaints he had been taking pictures of children outside his home.

During the fatal attack, father-of-four James, who believed his victim had been filming his children, repeatedly stamped on Mr Ebrahimi’s head, telling him “have some of that”.

Father-of-two Norley, who worked for a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, helped James drag Mr Ebrahimi’s body from the scene of the attack and obtained white spirit to burn it.

Mr Ebrahimi’s sister Manizhah Moores, who attended proceedings today, previously said her brother suffered racial abuse while living in Bristol.

“We hope that nobody else ever has to witness an innocent disabled man being abused, taunted and tortured in the way that Bijan suffered,” Mrs Moores said.

Duffy, Passmore, Harris and Winter did not comment before or after the hearing