Ex-asylum seeker who set elderly men on fire sentenced to hospital order

​Mohammed Abbkr

Mohammed Abbkr came to the UK from Sudan in 2017

Jack Carson

By Jack Carson

Published: 17/04/2024

- 17:00

Abbkr was trying to kill 82-year-old Hashi Odowa, and 70-year-old Mohammed Rayaz, using a lighter and petrol in a water bottle to set fire to them

The man who set two elderly men on fire as they left their mosques has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order at Birmingham Crown Court today.

29-year-old Mohammed Abbkr was convicted of attempting to murder the worshippers in their 70s and 80s in February and March of last year as they left prayers in London and Birmingham.

Abbkr was trying to kill 82-year-old Hashi Odowa, and 70-year-old Mohammed Rayaz, using a lighter and petrol in a water bottle to set fire to them.

Telling his first victim, Odowa: “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me”, the court also heard how Abbkr had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Abbkr came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later in 2019.

Sentencing the Sudanese man already reprimanded in a secure mental hospital, His Honour Judge Melbourne Inman KC told Abbkr "the attacks were horrific".

Judge Melbourne Inman KC told Abbkr 'the attacks were horrific'


He said: "The two victims in this case were chosen at random, you, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.

"There is no evidence at all that at any stage you have held extreme views. You are a practising Muslim but have never expressed extreme views and there is no evidence of you seeking out extreme content on the internet.

"It is highly likely you will require lifelong treatment for this illness."

During the trial, jurors were asked to consider whether Abbkr should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but after deliberations for more than seven hours over two days, a guilty verdict by a majority of 11-1 was delivered to Birmingham Crown Court.

Odowa suffered minor burn injuries to his ear and hand in the attack as he made his way to a neighbour’s car outside West Ealing Islamic Centre in west London.

Rayaz suffered serious burn injuries, particularly to his head, from the attack in Shenstone Road, Edgbaston, and was treated in hospital for a number of weeks.

Prosecutor Nicholas de la Poer KC told the jury: “The defendant then sprayed Mr Rayaz with the petrol. Using a lighter, the defendant set fire to the petrol. Mr Rayaz was engulfed in flame.”

The court was told that, as the initial flare of the fire began to diminish, the defendant threw more petrol from his bottle on to the flames and they “grew in size and intensity once again”.

Abbkr walked away from the scene and was tracked down a day after attacking Rayaz, who was a regular worshipper at Birmingham’s Dudley Road Mosque.

Rayaz was followed for more than five minutes after leaving the mosque’s prayer hall, with CCTV footage showing Abbkr within feet of him as they passed a Caribbean food store on Dudley Road.

Mohammed Ayaz, the eldest son of Rayaz, said: “Seeing my father on the evening of 20th March 2023 in the burnt state he was in, was just an awful and unbearable thing to see.

“No words can describe that moment the emotions which I was feeling, I felt so helpless and weak, no son or daughter should see their father or mother in that state.”

Mohammed Ayaz, the eldest son of Mohammed Rayaz, said it was 'unbearable' to see his dad burnt


Another son, Adnaan Riaz, said: “Seeing the CCTV video of my dad being set on fire, his screams of pain and then reliving the visuals to the build-up of the attack and then after the attack will be with me forever.

“I would describe the attacker as a coward, this coward does not belong to any religion, society or even humanity.”

Initially, the attacks were investigated by counterterrorism officers, but no evidence was found to prove Mohammed Abbkr was motivated by a particular ideology and the incidents were not treated as terrorist attacks.

Speaking after the verdict back in November, Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai, of Birmingham Police, said: “These were absolutely horrific attacks which almost defy belief in their apparent randomness and severity.

“The courage of the victims and their families has been exceptional. They have been left with physical and emotional wounds that they may never recover from, but I hope today will offer them some comfort.”

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