A six-year-old girl was killed in an arson attack on her family home by men who disapproved of a relationship her older brother was having with a teenager, a court heard today.
Alisha Begum, the youngest of 12 children in her Bangladeshi family, became the innocent victim of an attempt to warn her sibling off seeing the 15-year-old when a blaze swept through her Birmingham home earlier this year, prosecutors said.
Two men went on trial today at Birmingham Crown Court accused of her murder and the attempted murder of nine of her relatives who escaped from the property in Bayswater Road, Aston, during the fire.
Hussain Ahmed, a 26-year-old dentist, and Daryll Tuzzio, 18, both from Birmingham, deny all the charges, including an additional count of arson with intent to endanger life.
Opening the case, Adrian Redgrave, prosecuting, said: “One hears of so-called honour killings though one may wonder how by any stretch of the imagination there can be any honour in what happened here, resulting in the death of a six-year-old child.”
The jury heard that Alisha’s brother Abdul Hamid, 21, started a relationship with Ahmed’s 15-year-old sister Meherun Khanum towards the end of last year.
Mr Redgrave said their relationship was discovered by her family, who disapproved. Twenty-four hours before the fatal fire, the prosecution said Mr Hamid received a threatening phone call from a man who warned him: “Don’t f*** with my sister or I’ll break your b******s.”
Shortly before midnight on March 10, Mr Redgrave said a masked figure burst through the front door of the family home and sprayed petrol in the hallway before lighting a match.
The blaze spread up the stairs and took hold so quickly that family members, some of whom had been asleep, were forced to jump out of an upstairs window, he said.
Alisha, who was in her bunk bed at the time, did not escape. She was discovered by firefighters who searched the property and died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital the following day. Mr Redgrave described the attack as “an act of pure wickedness”.
He said: “The reason for the setting fire to this house containing that family was clearly, we submit, to get at Abdul Hamid because he had formed this unauthorised relationship with the sister of the first accused (Ahmed).”
Mr Redgrave said two further men—Ahmed’s brother Mohammed Foaz Ahmed and a close friend Jabed Ali—were wanted in connection with the incident but had subsequently disappeared. He said: “The first defendant (Ahmed) directed this attack.
“There is no evidence to put him at the scene of the attack but the person who organises, directs others to commit a crime, is as responsible for and guilty of that crime as those who carry it out. Those who carried it out were Mohammed Foaz Ahmed, Daryll Tuzzio and Jabed Ali.”
Members of Alisha’s family, including her father and some of her sisters, were in court to hear CCTV, mobile phone, fingerprint and eye-witness evidence put before the jury.
Ahmed, of Quinton Road West, Harborne, and Tuzzio, of Sandringham Road, Perry Barr, sat quietly throughout the opening. The trial, which is being heard before Mr Justice Field, is due to last two weeks.