Business feud 'cost house fire victims their lives'

Two children and their mother who were killed in a house fire were the innocent victims of a bitter feud between business partners which escalated out of control, a murder trial heard yesterday.

Iram Shah, 30, her daughter Alina, 10, and son Aman, eight, died after paper soaked in petrol was set alight outside their home on July 6 last year, a jury at Bradford Crown Court was told.

Prosecutors allege the arson attack was carried out by brothers Asjid and Arshed Mahmood following a dispute with Mrs Shah's estranged husband, Zaheer.

Both brothers were owed money by Mr Shah, the court heard, and in "a team effort" they went to the house in Hendford Drive, Bradford, started the fire and drove off.

The court was told the Shahs' marriage had effectively ended five years earlier but Mr Shah remained in touch with the children and would often spend nights at the house, sleeping in a spare room. He was out when the fire was started.

Andrew Stubbs, QC, prosecuting, said Mr Shah had been a close friend and business associate of Asjid Mahmood, and one of their enterprises was to buy a Seat Leon FR car, which they made available for hire.

Their plan was to split the proceeds of the hire charges but the business venture ran into trouble.

A loan obtained to pay for the car was taken out in the name of Asjid, whose credit rating worsened as Mr Shah failed to keep up with the repayments.

Mr Stubbs said that Asjid's feelings towards Mr Shah "grew from frustration into a bitter hatred and deep-seated anger".

These feelings "intensified", the prosecutor added, to the extent that, by July last year, Asjid was declaring he wanted to "torture and kill" Mr Shah.

In a series of text messages, Asjid, 22, called his business partner a "liar" and "bloodsucking leech" who was "evil" and had ruined his life, the court was told.

On the day of the attack, Asjid visited Mr Shah's second wife, Tracey, to collect the spare keys to the hire car. He was said to be "agitated, nervous and hyper like a zombie".

The jury was told Asjid became "more angry" during the meeting after it emerged Mr Shah had used his name on utility bills without telling him.

Later that evening, Asjid said his head was "spinning" about Mr Shah, adding: "I wish I could grip him and torture him."

He sent a text message to Mr Shah, asking where he was. Mr Shah replied he was in Manchester, an answer Asjid did not believe.

Asjid then sent a text message to Arshed, 18, asking him to fetch a petrol canister from the cellar at their home in Pollard Lane, Undercliffe, Bradford.

The jury was told that, by examining CCTV cameras and mobile phone records, police were able to plot the journey made by the brothers on the night of the attack.

Mr Stubbs said Asjid drove to Pollard Lane and collected his brother, who had the petrol canister with him.

They drove to a Texaco garage on Killinghall Road to fill the petrol canister.

Mr Stubbs said phone records showed that Arshed's phone was used in the vicinity of Hendford Drive two minutes before the fire brigade received its first 999 call about the blaze.

The brothers each deny three counts of murder.

The trial is due to resume today.