Mother's vain plea to save children in arson attack

Two children died in an arson attack while their mother lay injured and on fire outside their burning Yorkshire home, pleading in vain for someone to save them, a murder trial heard.

Neighbours tried to help Iram Shah, 30, by rolling her in grass as she urged them to go into the house to rescue her daughter Alina, 10, and Aman, eight, Bradford Crown Court was told yesterday.

But neither child made it out of the house alive, and Mrs Shah, who was badly burned and suffered a fractured spine when she jumped out through an upstairs window, died six days later.

A jury heard the fire in Hendford Drive, Bradford, was started deliberately in the early hours of July 6 last year by brothers Asjid and Arshed Mahmood following an increasingly bitter dispute with the children's father, Zaheer Shah.

Asjid Mahmood, 22, and Arshed Mahmood, 18, both of Pollard Lane, Undercliffe, Bradford, each deny three counts of murder.

Mrs Shah's frantic attempts to rescue Alina and Aman were described in court by her brother Mohsan Rasa, Mr Shah's cousin, who was watching TV in the sitting room of the house when the fire broke out.

Mr Rasa said she and the children were sleeping upstairs when he heard a smoke alarm go off and, after leaving the room to investigate, he saw the fire in the hallway.

He told the court he went to his sister, who met him on the stairs and asked, "What's happening?", and he told her there was no way out downstairs because the flames were too high. He then climbed out of a back window and on to a lower roof where he said he waited for Mrs Shah to pass the children out to him, but no one came and the fire was too intense to climb back in.

Mr Rasa told the court he went to the front of the house where he saw his sister on the ground with her arms on fire.

"She was saying, 'My kids are dying inside – take them out, take them out'," Mr Rasa added.

Andrew Stubbs QC, prosecuting, said the fire started when a pile of paper was soaked in petrol, left on a doormat outside the house, and set alight. He said the brothers were involved in their family's chain of fish and chip shops, Barkerend Fisheries, and the paper used in the attack was the same as that used by the business.

The court heard that Asjid Mahmood had accepted responsibility for the deaths but denied murder because he had not intended "to cause death or serious harm". The trial is due to continue today.