A man accused of the murder of an accused pedophile pleaded guilty in court on Friday, which resulted in an 18-year prison sentence. The innocent victim, 44-year-old Bijan Ebrahimi, was falsely believed to be a pedophile after being spotted filming and photographing children who were vandalizing his prized flowers.
Ebrahimi came to England in 2000 from Iran and moved into a government-subsidized ground floor apartment where he lived alone. He was registered as being unable to work due to disability, and was described in court as having gardening and his cat as the only happiness in his life.
When unruly behavior began occurring outside of his home, Ebrahimi began photographing and filming it in order to use it as evidence in his effort to be moved into another home. His neighbor, Lee James, a 24-year-old laborer, saw him filming children – his among others – on a communal area of the neighborhood and accused Ebrahimi of being a pedophile. James continued to publicly accuse Ebrahimi of being a child molester while verbally abusing him and had even gone into his home uninvited in order to threaten him.
In one video recorded that day by Ebrahimi and shown in court, James is heard saying, “Take pictures of me again and I will f**k you up.” James’ girlfriend, Charlene Husher, then escorted James out of Ebrahimi’s house, at which point he went in search of a law enforcement officer. According to the officer, James was forceful and under the influence of alcohol when he reported that a “foreign” man was taking photographs of children. He also mentioned that he believed that the amount of time spent by Ebrahimi in tending to his plants was a ruse carried out so that he could look at the children.
A crowd soon formed and began attacking Ebrahimi verbally and shouting threats, at which point police took Ebrahimi into custody in order to protect him. After reviewing the evidence, the police determined that Ebrahimi’s actions were innocent and released him the next day. Ebrahimi insisted that he be returned to his apartment instead of being delivered to his sister’s home.
The day of Ebrahimi’s release, officers returned to the apartments and were faced with James, who they described as “furious and crying with anger.” He told an officer that because the police were not doing anything to protect the children, he would have to take action himself, saying, “I will do time, I ain’t having him taking photos of my kids, I will protect them to make sure he won’t do anything like this. I will tell them I did it for them and they will be proud of me.” As it turned out, the murder of the innocent man he accused of being a pedophile resulted in his vow coming true as he now faces 18 years in prison.
Despite several calls to police in which Ebrahimi begged for help, claiming continued harassment and threats by James, no officers responded to his apartment. It was only hours later that James locked his own apartment door and told his family to stay inside, then punched, kicked, and stomped Ebrahimi to death. James’ friend, Stephen Norley, a 25-year-old market worker, helped to drag Ebrahimi’s body away and then to light it on fire, where it was found 100 meters away from the apartments.
James pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. For his part, Norley received four years. During sentencing at Bristol Crown Court, the justice called the murder an injustice, telling James that his wrongful conclusion that Ebrahimi was a pedophile for photographing the children put him “outside of the law,” adding, “You thought you were entitled to take the law into your own hands. What you did had nothing to do with the law or justice.”