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The Murder of Ross Parker

Ross Parker was a 17 year old white English male murdered in an unprovoked racially motivated crime. He bled to death after being stabbed, beaten with a hammer, and repeatedly kicked by a gang of British Pakistani men. The murder occurred in Millfield, Peterborough ten days after the September 11 attacks.




Ross Parker


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Ross was born in 1984 to his mother and father, Davinia and Tony Parker. His mother worked as a waitress and his father ran a car bodywork repair business. Ross also had a sister. He was an avid football player, and studied business studies, and hoped to join the police force when he was 18. He was 5-foot 5-inches tall and was nicknames "half-pint". Ross Parker lived in the Westwood area of the city and worked part-time as bar support at The Solstice, a local pub where he had met his girlfriend, Nicola Toms.




The Murder of Ross Parker


Ross Parker was murdered shortly after 1:15am on Friday 21st September 2001. Racial tensions in the area were high because the 11 September attacks in New York City had occurred ten days earlier. The attack on Ross Parker took place on a cycle path alongside Bourges Boulevard in Millfield, Peterborough.


On the fateful day Ross Parker finished work at the pub early and walked with his girlfriend to visit a friend's house. They were confronted by a gang of around ten Pakistani youths, some wearing balaclavas. They warned Ross he had "better start running", but then blocked his path and he was sprayed with CS gas. He was punched in the stomach then stabbed three times from behind through the neck and chest with a hunting knife. The knife penetrated do a depth of about 6 inches, its point twice emerging through the front of his chest. As Ross was lying on the ground he was repeatedly kicked and struck with a hammer.


Ross Parker's girlfriend, Nicola Toms, ran to a nearby petrol station for help and managed to borrow a mobile phone to call the police. While making the call she heard Ross cry out in pain twice. By chance Nicola Toms spotted a passing police car and guided the officer to the scene of the assault. Although Nicola had only been away for a few minutes, by the time she returned to Ross's side he had already bled to death and the gang had disappeared.


The police told Ross Parker's family of his death at 4:30am. His body remained at the scene during the day while an investigation was conducted. The post-mortem revealed Ross had died as a result of stab wounds inflicted by a bladed instrument.




Arrests and Charges


Following the attack twelve suspects of Pakistani descent were arrested on suspicion of murder. Members of the local Muslim community posted a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers, later increasing to £1,500. Detective Chief Inspector Dick Harrison, who oversaw the case, praised the city's Muslim community for their involvement in capturing the murderers.


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Trial


On 7 November 2002, Ahmed Ali Awan, Shaied Nazir, Sarfaz Ali and Zairaff Mahrad all of Millfield, Peterborough, stood trial for the murder of Ross Parker at Northampton Crown Court, pleading not guilty.


Ahmed Awan, 21 at the time of the murder, ran a recruitment company and was an unofficial police informer. The court was told he thought of himself as a gangster and had a "fantasy for knives". Shaied Nazir was close friends with Awan. He had worked in a factory and later in a takeaway restaurant with Mahrad, who he had known since childhood. Ali was given a reference at the trial by the Deputy Mayor of Peterborough, Raja Akhtar, and Labour Party councillor Mohammad Choudhary, with Akhtar stating he had "known him to be caring and responsible." Mahrad owned a takeaway restaurant business in Kings Lynn.


During the trial the jury heard covert police recordings of conversations that took place in police vehicles when the suspects were arrested. The suspects discussed the attack and the conversations were submitted as evidence and translated from Punjabi. Nazir was heard describing Ross Parker's death as a "blood bath", and how the third blow from the knife had split the whole of his neck open. Awan and Nazire were both heard discussing the plan they had "made up" and the statements they'd given to police. The jury also heard of an exchange between Awan and an inmate at Bedford Prison, in which he described the killing of Ross Parker in lurid detail. Contents of a letter written by Mahrad were presented in which he stated he would "pray to Allah for forgiveness."


The jury were told how the murder weapons and two bags of bloodied clothes had been found in a shed at Nazir's house. DNA and fingerprints that belonged to Nazir were found on the knife, and Ross Parker's blood was found on both the hammer and the knife. His blood was also found on clothes of two of the accused, along with Nazir and Mahrad's DNA. A pathologist told how marks on Ross Parker's body matched the hammer found in the shed. Three balaclavas were recovered from the property and they contained traces of Ross Parker's blood. Nazir's younger brother Wyed told the court he had seen his brother cleaning the murder weapon on the night of the murder and he'd witnessed all four defendants with blood on their clothing. Other witnesses reported Nazir admitting to beating someone up, Mahrad admitting to kicking Ross Parker, and Awan recalling stabbing him. Another witness saw all four defendants kicking Ross Parker.


In court Shaied Nazir admitted to seeing Ross Parker lying on the ground and trying to spray him with CS gas. He acknowledged washing the murder weapon and said Sarfaz Ali had hit Ross Parker with the hammer and Ahmed Ali Awan had used the knife. Nazir also alleged prosecution witnesses Zaheer Abbas and Adeel Rehman had been involved in the attack. Zairaff Mahrad admitted being present at the murder scene, but claimed the blood stains found on his trousers occurred as a result of his accidentally falling across Ross Parker. Ali denied being at the murder scene, claiming to have been asleep at the time of the killing, but a police recording indicated this was a "story" he had encouraged others to "stick to". Awan also denied being present and claimed he'd been at home playing on his Playstation with Shokat Awan, his brother.


Nigel Rumfitt QC, defending Awan, summarised the crime by stating: "These people were not taking the night air. Every member of the group knew what was going on. The weapons had been selected before they set off. The knife was far too big to be hidden from others. There is no doubt there was a hunting party looking for a victim."


On 19 December 2002 Shaied Nazir, Ahmed Ali Awan, and Sarfaz Ali were unanimously found guilty of Ross Parker's murder. The judge, Sir Edwin Jowitt, summarised the murder during the sentencing:


"You put your heads together with the purpose of arming yourselves and of attacking an innocent man you might find by chance simply because he was of a different race to yourselves. A racist killing must be one of the gravest kinds of killing."


The judge concluded that Awan had wielded the knife, was the ringleader of the group and had intended to kill. The three received life sentences, with Awan to serve a minimum of 18 years and the others at least 16. Zairaff Mahrad was cleared of murder and manslaughter.

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