A SENIOR detective has spoken of his fresh hope that the suspected mastermind of a fire-bombing which killed three adults and five children 16 years ago will be extradited to face justice.
Eight members of the same family were killed after petrol bombs were thrown through the windows of their home in Birkby, Huddersfield, in 2002, in the name of 'family honour'.
Prime suspect Shahid Mohammed, who had skipped bail and was the subject of a huge manhunt for 12 years, was arrested in Pakistan more than three years ago. He remains in custody in a jail in Rawalpindi.
But with no extradition treaty in place between the UK and Pakistan, the process of asking for him to be brought back to face a British court has been beset by delays.
Now Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, who has been leading the investigation, said this week his force was asked to send key information about the case to a Pakistani judge as he considers the ad-hoc extradition request.
Det Supt Wallen, speaking outside the house on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the fire, said he was hopeful that progress was being made, while warning that they had been given "false hope" before.
He said: "We are hoping against all hope that the judiciary in Pakistan, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK and local members of Parliament can continue to put pressure on the Pakistani authorities to bring him back to the UK to face justice."
The tragedy remains the biggest single event of multiple murders that West Yorkshire Police has investigated in nearly 30 years.
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.
Det Supt Wallen said: "This was an act of mass-murder. It is the most devastating case I have dealt with as a senior detective."
In July 2003, three Huddersfield men - Shaied Iqbal, Shakiel Shazad Amir and Nazar Hussain - were convicted for their part in the crime.
But Det Supt Wallen said Mohammed was suspected of being "the mover and shaker behind all of this, the driving force behind that twisted honour-based motive".
Muhammad Shafique, who had escaped the fire by jumping out of a window but lost his mother, brother, sister and five nieces, said being back at the house "brought back dreadful memories".
He spoke of his family's frustration at the length of time the extradition request was taking.
He said: “It is frustrating. We are very concerned that it has been three years and he is still in custody over there.
“We are frustrated with the legal process over there. It is taking such a long time for the courts and the judges to decide, but we are hopeful he will be brought into this country eventually.
“We have just to be patient.”
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said he has been lobbying Government ministers to put pressure on the Pakistani authorities.
He said: “I have been pushing the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and any other minister I can talk to, to try and ensure that we have a good conversation with the excellent Pakistani authorities who I think understand the severity of this crime.
“It is a mass-murder of many people including a lot of children. We need to see justice done here and a fair trial is what we offer when this man returns to Britain.”