Lionel Du Cane, National File, October 22, 2019
An axeman chopped off a tree surgeon’s hand as he pleaded with a gang of up 20 men to leave him and his friends alone.
The victim, a tree surgeon then aged 18, and three of his workmates were set upon by the group after a road rage row in Rochdale.
Mohammed Awais Sajid, 23, known as ‘Skinny’, was aiming for the victim’s head but cut off his hand when he moved his arms up to stop the blow.
Minshull Street Crown Court heard how Sajid wielded the axe twice in quick succession, Manchester Evening News reports.
He initially slashed the victim, who was acting as a ‘peacemaker’, in the chest, shattering his ribs and causing a collapsed lung.
Tim Storrie, prosecuting, said he followed this up with a 360 degree ‘spin of his arm’ to increase the speed and devastation of the attack.
The prosecutor said: “The blow itself was aimed at the victim’s head.
“He was dimly aware at this stage of the weeping of blood down into his waistband.
“He was turning his body, attempting to leave the scene.
“Through good fortune, he said he realised the axe was above him aiming for his head.
“He put his arm up to defend himself and the blade essentially severed his arm at the wrist.”
The victim staggered away and was airlifted to hospital where he underwent life-saving emergency surgery.
His hand was partially reattached although the victim has required a further five surgeries in the two years since the attack in 2017.
He will only ever recover 60 per cent use of his arm and remains physically and mentally scarred by the events, the court heard.
Sajid, of Kings Road, Rochdale, was jailed for 18 years after being found guilty of section 18 wounding.
He was acquitted of attempted murder in an earlier trial.
There were shouts of ‘f***ing injustice!’ and ‘police set up’ from a man in the public gallery as he was led down to the cells, while a woman fled the court in sobs of tears.
The group was organised by Habibur Rahman, 27, who called the victims ‘white b******s’ in his ‘country’, during the brutal assault.
He was also found guilty of an assault charge after the court heard he used a knuckleduster to punch one of the other tree surgeons in the face, breaking his nose.
He was jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Other members of the gang were carrying knives, machetes, a clawhammer and a knuckleduster.
Rahman’s brother Zillur Rahman, 29, was jailed for three years for conspiracy to commit violent disorder after he admitted making phone calls to summon the gang.
Arsan Ali, 23, was among those he called and who attended the scene.
He was jailed for four years after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
Judge John Potter said the horrific events began at around 4pm when Habibur Rahman, manager of his family’s restaurant the Baytree in Blackley, ‘took offence’ at the driving of an elderly woman on Church Road.
“You shouted abuse at her and two tree surgeons passing by intervened,” Judge John Potter said.
“A scuffle took place between Habibur Rahman and one of the tree surgeons.”
Rahman then made it clear that he had been ‘disrespected’ on his ‘territory’ and decided to enact ‘swift retribution’, the judge added.
The tree surgeons were tracked to the property they were working on nearby and were quickly confronted by Rahman and a mob that rapidly grew in number.
“Habibur Rahman’s first action was to prevent the men from leaving,” said prosecutor Mr Storrie.
“As the workforce attempted to pack up their tools to leave the scene, he drove his car, a Vauxhall Zafira across the entry.
“The workmen found they were trapped and could not leave.
“The street where they had been working had become a battleground.
“And Habibur Rahman and his crew of supporters were beyond any kind of rational discussion.”
Speaking from his car, Rahman made chilling threats, saying: “I am not going to let them leave.
“They’re going to get what they deserve. They’re going to get stabbed.”
In interview, Rahman claimed he was subjected to racist threats from the four tree surgeons.
But sentencing, Judge Potter said this was a ‘pack of lies’.
He said: “The fact that a mob could be mobilised so quickly and so heavily-armed is clear evidence in my judgement that you are each associated with gang activity.”
Judge Potter described the violence as Rahman’s gang as ‘asserting control’ over the neighbourhood of Newbold in Rochdale.
Sajid arrived at the scene just as the violence began.
Mr Storrie said he launched a ‘devastating attack’ on the youngest of the tree surgeon crew that was ‘to shape irreversibly the events of the afternoon.’
“Sajid arrived by car, halting to get out and stride towards the confrontation; he had secreted his weapon down the waistband of his trousers; he removed it and, without the slightest hesitation or inquiry, in his first blow, he struck out at the chest wall of [the victim],” said Mr Storrie.
He followed up with the ‘360 degree swing’ which virtually severed the victim’s hand off.
Judge Potter said the young man had been acting as ‘peacemaker’ and was ‘completely defenceless’ when he was subjected to the ‘savage and brutal act’.
“You committed an appalling act of violence,” Judge Potter told Sajid, ” and took concerted efforts to conceal what you had done.”
The court heard the terrifying attack only came to an end when one of the tree surgeons picked up a chainsaw and revved it in an effort to scare them away.
Another victim fled to a nearby care home and managed to call emergency services.
Police in Rochdale launched a major investigation into the disorder under the codename Operation Beehive.
Habibur Rahman and Sajid were among twelve arrested in dawn raids in January last year. Nine others were later released without charge.