THE survivors of a West Yorkshire house fire which killed eight members of the same family nearly 15 years ago are still waiting for a suspect in the case to be returned to the UK, two years after he was arrested in Pakistan.
Shahid Mohammed was detained on January 22, 2015, 50 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in connection with the fatal fire in Birkby, Huddersfield.
Five children and three adults from the Chisti family died in the firebomb attack on the house in May 2002, with one man later convicted of murder and two others of manslaughter.
Mohammed, who had been on the run since being arrested by West Yorkshire Police and skipping bail, was the subject of a huge manhunt for 12 years.
But the 34-year-old has yet to be brought to Yorkshire to face court two years after his re-arrest as his case is still being dealt with by the Pakistan legal system. He has not been charged with an offence.
In order to secure Mohammed’s extradition, British officials would need to prove that there is enough evidence to charge him in the UK.
Muhammad Shafique, who escaped the 2002 fire that killed eight of his relatives: “It has been very slow, there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.
“Because there is no set process, we have to follow the hearings that have been going on in different courts. We don’t tend to get many details from the police.
“All we know is that everything is being exploited by the defendant so that he can win his case and stay out there. It is still ongoing.
“He is still in custody. The last thing we heard from the police was in December. The hearing was in November and they were waiting for the judge to make a judgement. In December I was told they were still waiting for the judge.
“It is frustrating but we just have to go with the flow about how it is. We were told it could take years at the outset when he was arrested. We just have to be patient.
“There is not much more we can do. We believe all the evidence is there for him to be brought back.
“We do get updates but it is not detailed information. We don’t know how much they can tell us and how much is confidential.”
Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, the senior investigating officer in the case, told The Yorkshire Post: “We are working through the CPS and through their representatives they have working in Pakistan.
“We are working as closely as we possibly can with the Pakistani authorities to bring about the extradition of Shahid Mohammed back to the UK. We are really hopeful that 2017 will see that take place.
“Clearly we, as the UK police, can’t interfere with the legal process that goes on in Pakistan, and we are very much in their hands.”
In 2015, Joseph Kotrie-Monson, an extradition lawyer at criminal defence firm Mary Monson Solicitors’ Manchester office, said arrangements for incoming extradition to the UK from Pakistan do exist, but are rarely used.
He said: “There has been no extradition treaty with Pakistan in living memory, despite gestures at negotiation on the issue over the last 20 years or so.
“But government between the two countries can extradite when they really want to, even without a treaty. Negotiation between the governments of two countries without a treaty over a one-off extradition are called ‘ad-hoc’ agreements.
“These are very rare, and have been used to extradite alleged criminals from Pakistan to the UK but not, to my knowledge, the other way round.
“The Pakistan court when the person is arrested will demand to be satisfied by the UK government that there is a case to answer before allowing extradition back to the UK, but this is a fairly low threshold, compared to the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a British jury would require at trial before saying someone was guilty.”
The attack in 2002 saw the killers pour petrol through the letterbox and put a petrol bomb through the window of the Chisti family’s home.
The fire killed Nafeesa Aziz, 35, and her daughters Tayyaba Bootall, three, Rabiah Bootall, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, five, Aneesa Nawaz, two, and Najeebah Nawaz, six months.
Miss Aziz’s brother, Mohammed Ateeq-ur-Rehman, 18, also died in the fire, and their mother, Zaib-un-Nisa, 54, died a week later in hospital.
In July 2003, three Huddersfield men - Shaied Iqbal, Shakiel Shazad Amir and Nazar Hussain - were convicted for their part in the crime.
Police said Mohammed’s re-arrest came after close work between authorities in the UK and those abroad and they are working on bringing him back to this country.
Detective Superintendent Lisa Griffin, of West Yorkshire Police, said at the time that the force was “utterly focused” on bringing the suspect back to the UK to be put before a court.