Fire that killed mother and her children 'was to frighten father'

A MAN has admitted starting a fatal house blaze which claimed the lives of a Bradford mother and her two children but told a court yesterday he only wanted to frighten the youngsters' father.

Asjid Mahmood became frustrated and angry about financial problems that built up after he bought a 20,000 Seat Leon FR sports car with Zaheer Shah with the intention of hiring it out, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Mahmood, of Pollard Lane, Undercliffe, Bradford, claimed Mr Shah had not contributed to the deposit or monthly payments and the man he initially looked up to as a successful role model was ripping him off.

The 22-year-old, who has no previous convictions, also claimed Mr Shah opened utility bill accounts in his name and had run up large mobile phone bills which he had to pay because his name was on the contract.

By July last year, he had suffered enough and decided he was going to put an end to the source of his problems by setting fire to the Seat which he believed was in Mr Shah's possession.

"In my mind I was sick of everything and in my mind I just wanted to get rid of it and destroy it," Mahmood told the jury.

After carrying out late night checks on the family's fish and chip shops, Mahmood drove his younger brother Arshed to a petrol station where the 18-year-old bought some petrol.

Mahmood said he told his younger brother he was going to burn the car and when the teenager said he was stupid and not to do it, just ignored him.

He told the court his younger brother asked to be dropped off at home, but he persuaded him to come with him to the family's house in Hendford Drive, Pollard Park, Bradford.

The jury heard Mahmood parked up and then poured the petrol into a carrier bag containing ripped up paper from one of the fish and chip shops.

But he could not find the Seat and instead decided to start a fire outside the rear of the house.

"I was angry at the time," said Mahmood. "I just wanted to express my frustration and relieve my anger by starting a fire outside the house." He wanted to "frighten" Mr Shah, but denied wanting to kill him or cause him really serious harm.

Mr Shah was not in the property when Mahmood set light to the petrol-soaked paper and the fierce blaze which engulfed the house claimed the lives of his former wife, Iram Shah, 30, and their two children Alina, 10, and eight-year-old Aman in the early hours of July 6 last year.

Mahmood said he ran off as soon as he lit the paper and did not look back. "I expected the paper to burn and leave loads of black ash behind or be put out by someone."

He claimed he had not been trying to burn the UPVC door or the house and had not intended to kill or seriously harm the mother and her two children.

"You accept that you are responsible for the deaths of Iram and those two children?" asked his barrister Julian Goose QC.

"Yes I accept that," replied Mahmood.

"You accept that you are guilty of manslaughter don't you," pressed Mr Goose.

"I do accept that," he said.

"What were you trying to do?" asked his barrister.

"Just to frighten him (Zaheer Shah) and get his attention," claimed Mahmood. "For him to take me seriously because I was so sick of being pushed around."

Mahmood said he was in shock and shaking when police arrived at his home a few hours later and arrested him.

Mahmood and his younger brother, also of Pollard Lane, both deny murdering Mrs Shah and her two children.

The trial continues.