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Police force showed racial bias in case of murdered refugee – watchdog

An IPCC report found Avon and Somerset Police repeatedly failed Bijan Ebrahimi before his murder.

Police failed a disabled refugee who was murdered by a neighbour and showed “hallmarks” of racial bias in the way they dealt with him, a damning report has found.

Lee James was jailed for life for beating Bijan Ebrahimi to death and then setting fire to his body outside his home in Bristol in July 2013.

Pc Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore were jailed at Bristol Crown Court last year for misconduct in a public office after it emerged that Mr Ebrahimi’s pleas for help before the attack went unheeded.

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Lee James went on to murder Mr Ebrahimi (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Now the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has produced a report on the case which concludes that Avon and Somerset Police repeatedly failed the 44-year-old in the seven years before his death.

Officers ignored his requests for help – including his final call about an hour before his murder – as he was viewed as a liar and a nuisance.

Police logs with potentially “racist undertones” included comments about the Iranian’s accent and him being “foreign”, the IPCC report states.

Mr Ebrahimi’s family said: “The IPCC’s report speaks to the institutional racism that lies at the heart of Bijan’s murder and immolation.

“Had the authorities not colluded in the race hate crime that Bijan suffered in his council flat over all those years, he would be alive today.”

Mr Ebrahimi remained polite and persistent in reporting crimes against him, despite police failing to record them dozens of times.

The IPCC report details how Mr Ebrahimi made 85 calls to the force between 2007 and July 2013, not including the weekend of his death. In 73 of these, he reported incidents including racial abuse, criminal damage and threats to kill – but police failed to record these as crimes on at least 40 occasions.

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Bijan Ebrahimi's sisters Manizhah Moore (centre) and Ladin Ebrahimi make a statement outside Bristol Crown Court with Tony Murphy of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in 2015 (Claire Hayhurst/PA)

The police watchdog found “consistent systematic failure” by call handlers, who breached standards on recording crimes, and identifying hate offences and repeat victims.

IPCC commissioner Jan Williams said Mr Ebrahimi had been failed “on a number of levels, over a number of years”.

Mr Ebrahimi identified himself as a victim of hate crime, but officers never recognised him as a repeat victim of abuse who needed help.

“Instead, his complaints about abusive neighbours were disbelieved and he was considered to be a liar, a nuisance and an attention-seeker,” she said.

“Neighbours’ counter-allegations were taken at face value and accepted, despite evidence to the contrary, and Bijan Ebrahimi found himself regarded as the perpetrator of the abuse, rather than as the victim.

“The constabulary’s failure to challenge unfounded rumours that Bijan Ebrahimi was a paedophile was to form the backdrop to the fatal events of the July 14 2013.”

Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Andy Marsh apologised for failing Mr Ebrahimi “in his hour of need”.

“We’ve made many changes since Mr Ebrahimi’s murder in response to the things we learnt and identified to be in need of change,” Mr Marsh said.

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Police officer Kevin Duffy was jailed for misconduct over the case (Ben Birchall/PA)

But Kevin Duffy, who was jailed for 10 months last year after being found guilty of misconduct by a jury, released a statement insisting he was innocent and blaming Avon and Somerset Police, saying he had been made out to be a scapegoat.

The IPCC report said Duffy failed to respond to numerous pleas for help by Mr Ebrahimi two days before the murder, as he viewed him as a nuisance and a liar.

But Duffy, who was sacked by Avon and Somerset Police following his conviction, insisted he had been “let down and failed” by the force.

Duffy said: “I was deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Mr Ebrahimi. He was the victim of a brutal and horrific crime but the responsibility for his death lies solely with Lee James who has been convicted and is now in prison.

“I strongly assert that I am innocent of misconduct in public office in relation to my actions in respect of Mr Ebrahimi. I have been made a scapegoat for organisational failings within Avon and Somerset Constabulary.”

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