'My hometown is flooded with cheap and readily available heroin and it's frightening'

A BBC investigative journalist has spoken of his shock at returning to his home town of Huddersfield to unravel a drugs underworld.

Mobeen Azhar was led back to the West Yorkshire townfollowing the shooting of Yassar Yaqub in January 2017.

Mobeen Azhar was led back to the West Yorkshire town following the shooting of Yassar Yaqub in January 2017.

Yassar was 28 when he was shot by police just off the M62 entering Huddersfield.

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Leeds Crown Court heard earlier this year how Yaqub had met with Bradford rival Mohammed Nisar Khan, known as Meggy, earlier that evening to resolve a drugs dispute.

Mobeen Azhar was led back to the West Yorkshire townfollowing the shooting of Yassar Yaqub in January 2017.

Khan was jailed for 26 years in May after he was convicted of the murder of Amriz Iqbal.

Mobeen said: "Huddersfield is very rarely on the news, but this story made the nationals and a lot of my friends kept ringing me up and asking about it, so I made the decision to go back and what I found I was not expecting."

Mobeen spent a lot of time on Blacker Road, where he used to live, speaking to people in the area about what had happened.

"When I asked about Yassar Yaqub a lot of people became uncomfortable and told me to be careful about what I was getting myself into," he said.

"It became clear to me then that there was a story much bigger than I first thought.

"There were daily occurrences of knife and gun crime and I spent a lot of time at crime scenes around the police tape talking to people who told me the incidents all involved young men and there were often allegations of violence being rooted in drug disputes and it was becoming a common theme.

"Many of the cases are unresolved so I can't go into everything that happened, but drugs was the reoccurring theme."

Mobeen's findings led him to explore the links between British Pakistanis in Yorkshire and the national and international drugs trade.

He said: "The crime scenes I visited were most often than not linked to alleged perpetrators and victims, who were overwhelmingly young British Pakistani men involved in drugs trade.

"I wanted to know if there was any hard data on the ethnicity of those who are convicted for dealing class A drugs such as heroin.

"Results of Freedom of Information requests I made revealed British Pakistanis make up a minority of those convicted for dealing class A drugs in the UK, but we uncovered that the British Pakistani community is over-represented when it comes to convictions for dealing class A drugs in the Yorkshire and Humber area."

Mobeen would meet drug runners, dealers and importers at various unsociable hours to hear their accounts of what was happening in his hometown.

"There was a common theme, he said.

"They were all telling me that from their own experience, the majority of heroin being sold in Britain was coming from Pakistan.

"I met with someone who used to work for the National Crime Agency and he explained that there are geographic and historic reasons for this, but he also clarified that whilst Pakistani criminals are significant to the UK in terms of heroin trafficking, they are not the only traders."

Mobeen says he has been left "truly shocked" by the level of violence in his hometown and also saddened by the hypocrisy of dealers and their justifications selling drugs.

"I asked one dealer if he wanted to get out of the way he was," he said.

"But he told me he just liked the money too much.

"Another said he had regrets about what he was doing, but I had no sympathy for him, in fact I was disgusted by what he had done.

"What these people are doing is sentencing others to death."

Mobeen says he wants people to engage with the difficult questions the series raises.

He said: "All communities have issues that need to be tackled. Huddersfield is no different. I would like viewers to understand the human cost of the drug trade and engage with why so many young British Pakistani men are involved in my hometown.

"The death of Yassar Yaqub was tragic. We can all agree that his life should not have ended in the way it did. I hope that something positive can be taken from such an unfortunate situation. I would like the series to help instigate what I believe is an overdue conversation."

The full series box set of Hometown is available now on BBC Three.