Cop who was jailed after Bristol man was killed says case haunt him

Moment police officer jailed for failing to help disabled asylum seeker who was beaten to death by vigilantes sheds a tear for the victim ‘for the first time’ – but insists he was ‘scapegoated’ and swears he’s not racist

  • Kevin Duffy was jailed for 10 months after mob killing of Bjan Ebrahimi in Bristol 
  • Former beat manager disgraced after failed to help slain asylum seeker in 2013
  • Bijan, 44, abused and falsely accused of being peadophile by his neighbours
  • Was beaten to death and set alight by Lee James, 24, after calling police for help 

A police officer who was jailed for 10 months after he failed to help an asylum seeker before he was killed by a mob of angry neighbours sheds a tear for the victim for the first time in a Channel 5 documentary. 

Kevin Duffy was a beat manager in Brislington, Bristol, when Iranian refugee Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, was beaten to death and set alight by two neighbours on Sunday 14 July 2013, after a period of non-stop abuse.

Murdered by a Mob, airing on Channel 5 tomorrow night at 9pm, focuses on police failures to help Bijan, and how officers went as far as arresting him instead of the anti-social neighbour who ended up being his killer, Lee James, then 24.

Several police officers, including Duffy in 2016, were sacked from the force and had to serve jail terms for misconduct on the job.

In 2017, an independent report from Safer Bristol Partnership found that there were elements of institutionalised racism in the way the police dealt with Bijan’s complaints.   

Duffy, who thinks he was ‘scapegoated’ in the past, and swears he is not racist, broke down in the documentary as he recalled discovering Bijan’s body, and said it was the first time he had ever shed a tear for the late refugee. 

Kevin Duffy was a beat manager in Brislington, Bristol, when Iranian refugee Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, was beaten to death and set alight by two neighbours after a period of increased tensions and non-stop abuse on Sunday 14 July 2013. Poctured 

Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, pictured, was beaten to death and set alight by two neighbours after false rumours started circulating he was a peadophile

He also added he contemplated taking his own life after his release from prison. 

Duffy, who knew who Bijan was, had been blocking the asylum seeker’s calls all day on Friday 12 July 2013 while he worked on other cases. 

He said Bijan was a ‘priority,’ but a priority he had ‘set for Monday,’ and the beat manager grew more aggravated throughout the day as Bijan kept calling. 

Next day, Duffy heard that a body had been found at Capgrave Estate, where Bijan lived.  

Lee James, pictured, is currently serving a life sentence after he murdered Bijan in their Bristol neighbourhood. Stephen Norley (right), who lived next door, was sentenced to four years in prison for assisting an offender

Bijan had recorded James, pictured, bursting into his house and threatening to ‘f*** him up’ prior to the fatal attack 

‘I could not believe what they had done,’ Duffy said, adding: ‘They burnt the body. I thought, “Why, why, why do that?”.  

‘It was like a desecration that has stayed with me. I carry it around every single day and most of the nights as well.’ 

At this point during the interview, Duffy broke down in tears and had to step away from the camera, sobbing. 

‘I cried a lot of tears across the past few years but that’s the first time I’ve actually shed any tears for Bijan,’ he admitted, on returningn to his seat. 

He went on to discuss the consequences of spending 10 months in jail for misconduct following Bijan’s case. 

The Iranian refugee complained several times to the police, and called 13 times on Friday 12 July, a mere day before his death 


July 11: Bijan Ebrahimi dialled 999 and reported that neighbour Lee James had come into his flat and head-butted him.

When PCs Leanne Winter, and Helen Harris arrived, James was crying with anger and frothing at the mouth.

PCs Winter and Harris arrested Mr Ebrahimi for an alleged breach of the peace.

As he was led away from his home, the crowd cheered, clapped and shouted ‘paedophile’.

July 12: Mr Ebrahimi was released from custody. He made 12 calls to police non-emergency number 101.

He was informed that PC Kevin Duffy, his local beat manager, would visit him.

PC Duffy refused to speak to him and said he would call Mr Ebrahimi back at his own convenience.

The officer asked PCSO Passmore to conduct a ‘bit of a foot patrol’ around the area, which went on for about two to three minutes.

July 13: Mr Ebrahimi tried to contact PCs Duffy and Winter numerous times.

July 14: Just after 1am, witnesses saw James repeatedly stamp on Mr Ebrahimi’s head with his right foot. His body was later burned.

‘My whole professional identity and to a large extent my personal identity was just killed in that moment,’ Duffy said. 

‘Prison itself was difficult, but I’ve endured difficult before, I can do difficult, but it’s the emotional impact of it all.

‘Going for a run around here, I just had to stop and go home, and past the station there are loads of trees and I was visualising and planning which one I’d hang from,’ he added, his voice breaking. 

The former police officer said he was being ‘scapegoated’ for the failings of other people in the force, and claimed that police officers are automatically judged as racist. 

‘I’ve been wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of something I didn’t do. Was I scapegoated? Most definitely,’ he said. ‘They have got it so wrong.

They’ve got it so wrong, There’s a white person, particularly white man, they may be a bit racist, There’s a white man in a police uniform, definitely a racist,’ he said. ‘That’s just too easy and an unthinking way of dealing with anything.

‘And what has happened to me is very, very dangerous for anybody who works in any public service,’ he added. 

Matt Dawkins, from Stand Against Racism and Inequality, said in the documentary: ‘How many opportunities must have been missed for Bijan to end as a burning corpse?

‘As an institution, the police can be very defensive and will identify scapegoats at lower ranks if possible. People at the bottom of the tree of this institutional problem

‘There are others who bear  responsibility, there are sergeants and inspectors involved in that to their eyeballs, there’s got to be. That never came out.’

Kevin Duffy, pictured, said he thought about taking his own life after he was convicted to 10 months in jail for misconduct in the public office 

Stand Against Racism and Inequality said there must have been many opportunities police missed to help Bijan, pictured

Bijan had been moved across Brislington’s estates several times, and according to Matt Dawkins, he had been harassed by neighbours for years.  

‘The story that is often told about Bijan that this drunk yob kicked him to death, set his body on fire,’ Matt said. 

‘But I remember thinking this is not some drunken moment of madness, this has been going on for years, where local authority and police have known about this and I thought, “What on earth has happened to lead to this to this place?”.’ 

The 44-year-old Iranian man was beaten to death and his body set on fire by neighbour Lee James outside his home in Bristol in July 2013.

Prior to being killed, Bijan had called the police 78 times to ask for help after being threatened and racially abused. 

Days before the murder, neighbour Lee James wrongly believed that Mr Ebrahimi had filmed his young children, when he had actually been gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour.

Video footage showed James forcing himself into Mr Ebrahimi’s flat and abusing him before being dragged away, with witnesses hearing him yell: ‘I’ll burn his house down’. 

When police arrived at the scene they found a mob outside the refugee’s home, while James shouted: ‘Paedo! I’m going to f****** kill you.’

Instead of dealing with the vigilantes, police arrested Mr Ebrahimi for breaching the peace and held him in the cells overnight.

Video footage taken in custody saw PC Helen Harris telling Bijan he was a ‘pain in the a***’ and to ‘shut up.’  

SARI said the police treated Bijan as if his life didn’t matter and failed to protect him when he needed them (pictured: Bijan after he was arrested by the officers he had called to help) 

Upon his release without charge the next morning, now retired PC Hen Staveley-Brown, who appears in the documentary, told Bijan that Duffy couldn’t get in touch with him during the day. 

Police call logs reveal shocking callousness just hours before vigilante murder 

Here are details of 12 calls Bijan Ebrahimi made to the police on July 12, 2014 – 24 hours before he was brutally murdered near his home.

Call 1 – 1.28pm: Asks to speak to PC Kevin Duffy. Is told to call back at 2.30pm when PC Duffy is on shift.

Call 2 – 3.02pm: Calls again saying PC Duffy was ‘supposed to come to my house’. The handler cannot get hold of PC Duffy, who is on a job. Mr Ebrahimi is advised to call back in 15 minutes.

Call 3 – 3.34pm: Calls back and again the handler cannot get hold of PC Duffy. Mr Ebrahimi is told to call back in 10 minutes.

Call 4 – 3.56pm: Handler gets through to PC Duffy, who says he will visit Mr Ebrahimi later. Mr Ebrahimi tells the handler: ‘I don’t feel safe here.’

Call 5 – 6.39pm: Mr Ebrahimi tells the call handler people are calling him a paedophile and making jokes about him being handcuffed. He said six or seven neighbours were outside his door. He is told to lock his windows and doors and that officers will visit him as soon as they can.

Call 6 – 7.05pm: He tells the operator he wishes to speak to PC Duffy as he is expecting him to visit his flat and has a ‘mob’ outside his door ‘insulting him’, adding ‘my life is in danger’. The operator contacts PC Duffy who replies: ‘I have no intention of taking any calls from Bijan Ebrahimi. I will speak to him at my convenience.’

Call 7 – 7.27pm: Mr Ebrahimi calls again and is told PC Duffy is busy and will call when he is available. Mr Ebrahimi says: ‘But I told him my life is not safe here. I have to leave as soon as possible.’

Call 8 – 7.32pm: He telephones again and asks to speak to PC Leanne Winter urgently. Mr Ebrahimi tells police: ‘I’ve got a mob behind my door, a few of my neighbours, they are calling me names and I can’t go outside the door because I am not safe.’

He is told an officer will visit as soon as possible and the call is a very high priority. The call handler contacts PC Winter.

A colleague at the police station answers, saying: ‘Leanne Winter is sat just opposite me, stuffing her face with Pot Noodle at the moment.’ PC Winter says she does not want to speak to Mr Ebrahimi as she is busy.

Mr Ebrahimi tells the operator: ‘I can’t even open the door to let my cat out. What shall I do?’

Call 9 – 8.07pm: Mr Ebrahimi tells police some of his neighbours have left but he still wants to see PC Duffy as he still feels unsafe in his flat and will have to jump out of the window. The call handler contacts PC Duffy who says: ‘This is about the fourth or fifth call he has made tonight and trying to get hold of me in particular. I’m not gonna talk to him.’

The officer goes on to call Mr Ebrahimi ‘a perpetual liar’ and adds: ‘I have asked for [PSCO Andrew Passmore] to do a bit of foot patrol near Capgrave Crescent just to make sure everything is quiet and show a bit of presence but that’s as much as we’re doing for him tonight.’

The operator tells Mr Ebrahimi that PC Duffy will not be visiting him tonight and he can request another unit attends.

Mr Ebrahimi replies: ‘Why he keep me here, you know, in the danger area since 2.30pm?’ He says he will have to sleep in a park as he does not feel safe.

Call 10 – 8.18pm: Mr Ebrahimi tries to find out the name of an inspector he had spoken to that morning in custody.

Call 11 – 9.37pm: He calls from outside Brislington police station and is still trying to find out the name of the inspector he spoke to. PCSO Passmore is asked to go down to see him but replies: ‘He’s a bit of a liability so I don’t really want to speak to him outside the nick on my own.’

PC Duffy says he has ‘no [intention] of seeing Mr Ebrahimi tonight’.

Call 12 – 9.42pm: Mr Ebrahimi remains outside the police station and tells the call handler he is waiting for someone to see him. He is told no one is available and he should go home. Mr Ebrahimi replies: ‘I can’t go home. I’m not safe there.’

PC Duffy is called again and says: ‘I’m sorry, I’m gonna go off on one in a second because I’ve had repeat calls from this man. I am considering doing this Mr Ebrahimi for harassment if he keeps on calling.’

Asked if he will see Mr Ebrahimi the following day, the officer replies: ‘No, I won’t be.’

However, Duffy was investigating other cases around the neighbourhood and  refused to take Bijan’s calls. 

The refugee called the station 13 times on Friday 12 July, saying he didn’t feel safe at home and requesting to speak to Duffy, who said he didn’t want to speak to him. 

Bijan also tried to contact PC Leanne Winter, who had arrested him on Thursday 11 July, but she also refused to visit his house. 

Duffy instructed PCSO Andrew Passmore to patrol Bijan’s neighbourhood the day of the murder however, the agent lied about the extent of his patrol, saying that he’d been there for an hour and everything was ‘all clear.’

A few hours later, James stamped on his head until he died, and then set him alight in an attack on July 14. His burnt body was found just 100 yards from his maisonette.

Hen Staveley-Brown was among the officers who were called to the scene after neighbours reported a man lying on the ground and not moving.  

‘When we turned up, the ambulance had used a fire extinguisher on the body and I put my torch onto a smoking area and realised it was a body, quite unrecognisable that looked like a log,’ she recalled.

‘I would never had known it was Bijan, I raced around to Bijan’s flat and that heart dropping moment when I saw his door wide open.

‘The water was still dripping from the flowers on his hanging baskets. And it was horrible you just knew that this was somebody’s life

‘I didn’t know if he’d been burnt alive, and it’s haunted me ever since.’ 

James was given a life sentence by Mr Justice Simon at Bristol Crown Court and told he would serve a minimum term of 18 years. The judge called it an ‘act of murderous injustice’. 

PC Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore were jailed at Bristol Crown Court last year for misconduct in a public office in connection with Mr Ebrahimi’s death.

They, along with PCs Helen Harris and Leanne Winter, were dismissed from Avon and Somerset Police. 

In response to the documentary, Avon and Somerset Police released a statement reading: ‘The murder of Bijan Ebrahimi was a tragedy and we fully accept the policing response was wholly inadequate and we failed to protect him.

‘We wasted no time in implementing substantial changes and a recent report found that our force “responds well to incidents involving vulnerable people and works effectively with other agencies to protect them”.

‘We’re now recognised as a leading force in the use of data analytics which has transformed the way we work.

‘Had we been able to use this approach in 2013, Bijan would have been identified as one of our most vulnerable victims, triggering the level of safeguarding he needed,’ it ended. 

Meanwhile, Bristol City Council said:  ‘Our priority is to make Bristol a safe place for all people seeking sanctuary and to create an environment in which they can feel welcomed.

‘This was a tragic case that should never have happened. We fully accept the council’s role in failing Mr Ebhrahimi and his family. And we fully accepted the findings of the 2017 multi-agency review.

‘Following this, a task group was set up to ensure all partners take on board the lived experiences of disabled asylum seekers.

‘We have worked with the police, local hate crime prevention agency SARI, and equality and diversity specialists to delivery race awareness training across the council and the development of new strategies, processes and practices.

‘We are determined that Bijan’s legacy ensures every community feels safe and welcomed by the city,’ it concluded.  

Tony Murphy, the solicitor who represented the Ebrahimi family at trial, said of the police’s treatment of Bijan: ‘the treatment was contemptuous, disrespectful and prejudicial, Bijan was treated like his life didn’t matter.’ 

‘The impression I ended up with that was all the local police force which couldn’t care less about him,’ Matt Dawkins said. 

‘I’m convinced he was chucked into the too difficult box, or the bull**** box, basically, there was a belief he was making all up,’ he added. 

‘Maybe what you are dealing with are people who are simply appalling at their jobs,’he added. 

‘And it’s not because of particular individuals, because of someone’s race or someone’s background: it is because they can’t be bothered, I don’t know whether that’s better or worse,’ he went on. 

‘To think that a refugee could come to one of the most liberal cities in the country, and be beaten to death and set on fire. makes you proud, doesn’t it?’ Matt said with tears streaming down his face.

Murdered by a Mob airs tomorrow at 9pm on Channel 5.  

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