PSNI in clear over suspect who went on to kill pal
Police officers could not have predicted a man they did not arrest would go on to kill his friend just hours later, a watchdog has said.
Ahmed Noor stabbed 29-year-old Mohsin Bhatti multiple times at Botanic Avenue in Belfast in the early hours of January 29, 2015.
A subsequent court hearing was told that Noor, a paranoid schizophrenic, had been smoking cannabis and had heard voices in his head telling him to attack his friend.
Noor pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was given an indeterminate custodial sentence and told that he must serve at least six years’ detention before being considered eligible for release.
Police had searched Noor shortly after 10pm on the evening before the killing after receiving a report that he had tried repeatedly to open the front door of a flat occupied by two women.
Officers decided there were no grounds for arrest and allowed him to leave the area.
The police handling of the incident was referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation. Ombudsman investigators found that four officers had arrived at the women’s apartment within six minutes of receiving a call during which the man trying to gain entry to the flat had been described as “very disorientated”.
One of the women said Noor had initially asked if he could stand in the porch.
When this was refused, she said he stood in a nearby car park staring at the apartment, before returning and knocking the door again.
She refused to open the door, after which he went back to the car park, before returning and trying to open the door. She described the man as “unstable”.
When interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officers who responded to the call said Noor had been nervous, confused and “rambling incoherently”, but was also compliant and not aggressive. They said he refused to answer their questions, so they decided to search him under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Nothing was found.
The officers said that as he had committed no offences and was not deemed to be a threat to himself or others, there were no grounds for arrest and they had no option but to allow him to leave the area.
Noor was captured on CCTV attacking Mr Bhatti at around 5am the following day.
Having reviewed the evidence, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire concluded the officers had acted appropriately.
He said they had “reasonable suspicion” to carry out a search, which they had done in accordance with guidelines.
“They described Noor as being agitated, confused and disorientated, but none of them considered him to represent a threat to himself or anyone else. Their decision not to arrest him was the right one in the circumstances. There were insufficient grounds for an arrest,” said Dr Maguire.
“They could not have predicted that he would go on to kill just a few hours later.”
Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: “PSNI notes the findings of the Ombudsman’s report. This was an appalling tragedy and our sympathies are with the family of Mr Bhatti.”