A disabled Iranian refugee repeatedly reported death threats and racial abuse to police for seven years before being brutally murdered, a report has found.
Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten to death and set alight on a Bristol estate amid false claims he was a paedophile.
The IPCC said he had been treated “consistently differently from his neighbours” in what could be “racial bias, conscious or unconscious”.
Avon and Somerset’s police chief said “we failed him in his hour of need”.
Mr Ebrahimi’s sisters, Mojgan Kahayatian and Manisha Moores, said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report showed “how terrible a life he had during those last few years”.
Mr Ebrahimi was killed by his neighbour Lee James in Brislington in July 2013.
Three days before his death, police arrested Mr Ebrahimi following complaints he had taken pictures of children near his home, however nothing suspicious was found and he was released without charge.
These false allegations led to what Mr Justice Simon called during James’s sentencing “a vigilante crime” and “an act of murderous injustice”.
During the fatal attack, James repeatedly stamped on the victim’s head shouting “have some of that”.
Evidence gathered by the IPCC uncovered “poor responses” by police for at least seven years before the murder and repeated failures to protect him or record crimes against him.
In 73 of the calls Mr Ebrahimi made between 2007 and 2013, he reported incidents of racial abuse, criminal damage and threats to kill.
But police failed to record crimes on at least 40 occasions, the watchdog said.
The report also found there was “consistent systematic failure” by call handlers, who breached standards on recording crimes, identifying hate offences and repeat victims.
IPCC commissioner Jan Williams said: “Bijan Ebrahimi self-identified as a victim of race hate crime, but was never recognised as a repeat victim of abuse who needed help.
“Instead, his complaints about abusive neighbours were disbelieved and he was considered to be a liar, a nuisance and an attention seeker.”
His sister Mojgan said the family had been “devastated” by his death and the police had “failed” him.
“It was so hard to see Bijan all these years suffering and his voice never listened to,” she said.
“He was always waiting on police, he was thinking it’s their duty to care for him and protect him so he didn’t think it was up to us.
“He never gave up and he always thought he was in a country that police was there to protect people and he couldn’t see anything beyond that.”
Reports Mr Ebrahimi made to police
2007 – 9 reports made, the number recorded as a crime is unknown
2008 – 21 reports, 7 recorded as a crime
2009 – 18 reports, 8 recorded as a crime
2010 – 11 reports, 3 recorded as a crime
2011 – 5 reports, 4 recorded as a crime
2012 – 7 reports, 3 recorded as a crime
2013 – 2 reports, 0 recorded as a crime
Ms Williams said police accepted the neighbours’ versions of events at face value and viewed Mr Ebrahimi as the culprit rather than the victim.
She described Mr Ebrahimi’s faith in the force despite their repeated rejection of his version of events, as a “sad, poignant fact”.
The commissioner added: “We found evidence that Bijan Ebrahimi had been treated consistently differently from his neighbours, to his detriment and without reasonable explanation.
“Some of the evidence has the hallmarks of what could be construed as racial bias, conscious or unconscious.”
PC Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore were jailed last year for misconduct over their dealings with Mr Ebrahimi. They and two other police officers were also dismissed from the force.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “We failed [Mr Ebrahimi] in his hour of need and I am unreservedly sorry for the pain his family have suffered in the last four years.
“Some of these failings were systematic but it’s important to acknowledge that the actions of a very small number of individuals had a catastrophic effect.”
Timeline of Ebrahimi case
- 16 July 2013 – Bijan Ebrahimi is found “in flames” at a property in Brislington. The case is referred to the IPCC
- 19 September 2013 – The IPCC serves notices of gross misconduct against six police officers
- 28 November 2013 – Lee James is jailed for life for Mr Ebrahimi’s murder. Stephen Norley is sentenced to four years for assisting him
- 21 December 2015 – Kevin Duffy and Andrew Passmore are convicted of misconduct in public office
- 22 January 2015 – The pair are dismissed from the force
- 9 February 2016 – Duffy is jailed for 10 months and Passmore for four
- 3 May 2016 – PCs Helen Harris and Leanne Winter are dismissed from the force
Avon and Somerset Police has since implemented changes across its systems relating to culture, anti-social behaviour and vulnerability.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “There is nothing that can do justice to the collective failure to protect Mr Ebrahimi and to treat him as a victim of hate crime.
“Over the past four years I am satisfied that the constabulary has recognised the mistakes that were made and put in place wide-reaching changes which are already embedded today.”