A judge appealed for calm today after eight men were cleared of murdering three friends who were hit by a car during last summer’s riots.
The Crown alleged that Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir were protecting local businesses when they were murdered in the modern-day equivalent of a “chariot charge” involving three cars in Winson Green, Birmingham.
But Ryan Goodwin, Shaun Flynn, Juan Ruiz-Gaviria, Joshua Donald, Everton Graham, Adam King, Ian Beckford and Aaron Parkins were cleared of three counts of murder each by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court today after just over four hours of deliberations.
After the verdicts, trial judge Mr Justice Flaux appealed for calm on the streets of Birmingham and urged people to respect the jury’s findings.
The judge said: “On any view, this has been a terrible case – a tragic and pointless loss of three young lives.
“However, by their verdicts the jury have decided that this was not a deliberate killing, that there was no plan to kill these three young men.
“The jury have decided that this was a terrible accident.”
The judge, who said the deaths occurred at a time of unprecedented civil disorder, added: “It is important that however strong feelings are within the community in Winson Green and adjacent areas, that calm is maintained and that these verdicts are respected.
“Any other action would not be honouring those who died. In fact, quite the reverse. What happened on the streets of Birmingham and other cities last August should never be repeated.”
The prosecution alleged that all eight defendants were party to a plan to drive a vehicle at a crowd of people in Dudley Road, Winson Green, in the early hours of August 10.
It was alleged that a Ford Fiesta and an Audi car were used to lure pedestrians into the road, where they were hit by a Mazda.
But the defendants denied the existence of any plan to harm pedestrians and the driver of the Mazda, 30-year-old Ian Beckford, denied deliberately driving into the victims.
Beckford, of Holly Bush Grove, Quinton, Birmingham, told the trial he was good friends with siblings Mr Musavir, 31, and Mr Ali, 30, and had not intended to knock down, kill or seriously harm any member of the crowd.
Hours after the deaths, 21-year-old Haroon Jahan’s father Tariq made an emotional appeal to groups of youths gathered outside his home in Winson Green.
His call for calm was credited with helping to bring an end to the riots and he later received an award for his compassion and dignity in the aftermath of his son’s death.
Goodwin, 21, Flynn, 26, Ruiz-Gaviria, 31, Donald, 27, Graham, 30, King, 24, Beckford, 30, and Parkins, aged 18, hugged and shook hands with each other in the dock as the verdicts were returned.
A woman in the public gallery shouted “that’s justice” and “thank you jury” as the foreman sat down following the verdicts, while Tariq Jahan remained impassive with his arms folded.
Mr Justice Flaux also directly addressed the victims’ relatives, including Mr Jahan, in the aftermath of the verdicts.
The judge told them: “I know this has been really terrible for you, don’t think I don’t know that.
“I know Mr Jahan has done wonderful things for the city in ensuring we didn’t have a complete conflagration last August.
“Can I please ask you to remain calm and so far as it humanly possible to put everything that happened last August behind you and look to the future.
“Throughout the trial you have all behaved in a most dignified way and I am very grateful for that.”
After the defendants were told they were free to leave the dock, the judge also thanked the nine women and three men of the jury, who were excused from further jury service for 15 years.