Murder of Zahid Mubarek

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Zahid Mubarek was a British Asian teenager who was murdered by his cellmate on 21 March 2000 at the Feltham Young Offenders' Institution in southwest London. He was already inside Feltham when his killer, 20-year-old Robert Stewart, was transferred to his cell.

Family background[edit]

Mubarek's family trace their roots to Pakistan. His grandfather served in the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers who in 1960, migrated with his family to East London.[1] Zahid was born in 1980 and was the eldest of three children; his father worked as a manager in a factory for 28 years. The family came from a Muslim background and had no previous confrontations or records with the police before Zahid's case.[1]

Prison[edit]

Mubarek was a first-time prisoner and was five hours from the end of a 90-day sentence for stealing razor blades worth £6.[2]

Campaigners say that many key questions still remain unanswered:

  • Was the teenager's placement in that cell accidental, negligent, or worse still, deliberate?
  • Was the killing pre-meditated, or a seemingly random urge of violence?
  • Were others laterally involved in the death; be they staff who had fears but did not act, or inmates who wanted to see a fight?

Incident[edit]

Mubarek, who was trying to sleep ahead of his release the following morning, complained the light in the cell was too bright; Stewart responded to this by throwing a pair of underpants over the cell lamp. At 3.35am on the morning of 21 March, Stewart took a table leg that he had already separated from the table and began battering his cellmate over the head. Mubarek was hit between seven and eleven times before Stewart pressed the alarm and waited for the prison officers to arrive. Once they did, he was immediately moved to a nearby cell where he washed his blood-stained hands and clothes before a forensic team could isolate any evidence. All the while, Mubarek was on his way to Charing Cross Hospital in west London, where he died.

Back at Feltham, Stewart took the heel of his rubber shoe and scrawled a swastika on the wall before scratching the following message: Manchester just killed me padmate. RIP OV M1CR

Inquiry[edit]

The unprecedented decision by the Law Lords to order Home Secretary David Blunkett to hold a public inquiry into the murder was heralded a huge victory for the dead teenager's family. Despite the family's four-year wait for the inquiry, some evidence is already in the public domain after the Commission for Racial Equality conducted its own investigation.

Evidence presented at the later murder trial revealed Stewart to be a seriously disturbed individual; he had "RIP" and a cross tattooed on his forehead. The inquiry stated that Zahid Mubarek died because of a combination of his cellmate's racism and failures of the Prison Service.

On 8 February 2000, Stewart was allocated a double cell with the soon-to-be-released Mubarek as Feltham faced crowding problems. Six weeks later Mubarek was murdered in a racially motivated attack by Stewart.

Aggressive behaviour[edit]

Following Mubarek's death, some of the other inmates described Stewart's behaviour at Feltham as "strange, weird and aggressive."

One inmate had this to say about him: "If he used to lose at table tennis he would smash his bat on the table. He was aggressive. He would sit and stare at people. I have had him stare right into my eyes. When I've asked him what he's looking at he would just reply 'nothing'; it was crazy."[citation needed]

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