A British man has been jailed for at least 18 years for the brutal murder of a disabled Iranian man who was wrongly accused of being a paedophile.
A judge at Bristol Crown Court sentenced Lee James, 24, on Thursday to life with a minimum term of 18 years, describing the killing as an “act of murderous injustice”.
James killed Bijan Ebrahimi, 44, by repeatedly kicking him in the head on July 14 in the southwestern English city of Bristol. He then set fire to his dead body, which was found in the street outside the victim’s home.
The murder came three days after Ebrahimi had been arrested, after complaints he had been taking pictures of children.
He was later released after police realised his pictures mostly showed adults. Ebrahimi is believed to have been trying to gather evidence of harassment by local residents.
The victim had made several frantic calls to the police on the day of his murder asking for help. Police apologised for failing to protect Ebrahimi, who had moved to Britain in 2001 and repeatedly complained of harassment by his neighbours.
“Mr Ebrahimi was someone who deserved the protection of all of us and we are very sorry about what happened to him,” Chief Constable Nick Gargan of Avon and Somerset police said.
Ebrahimi’s family said he had been subject to “horrendous bullying by bad people on a daily basis”.
“Call it racism, call it prejudice, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, the things our brother was subjected to were barbaric,” they said in a statement.
Residents described a mood of anger and hostility in the neighbourhood after rumours circulated that Ebrahimi, who had back problems and was registered as disabled, was a paedophile.