An innocent man in the United Kingdom was burned to death after being wrongly accused of pedophilia.
According to the Bristol Post, Bijan Ebrahimi, an Iranian man who lived in Bristol, England, was murdered in July after rumors began swirling in his community that he had been taking indecent photographs of children.
The Telegraph reports that Ebrahimi, who was an avid gardener, had indeed taken photos of local youths. However, it is now believed that these youths had been harassing Ebrahimi by damaging his flowers, and that he may have been collecting the photos as evidence to present to the police.
Ebrahimi’s family says that he had been a victim of racism and harassment for years.
On July 11, Ebrahimi’s neighbors reportedly contacted the authorities to complain about this photo taking. When the police arrived, Ebrahimi is said to have been arrested for “breaching the peace.”
With emotions running high, a crowd of residents chanted “pedo, pedo” as Ebrahimi was led away for questioning, The Telegraph reports.
“There were about 20 people out there all having a say. They had him down as a 100 per cent pedophile,” a witness of the incident told the Post.
Police say that upon investigation, Ebrahimi, who is said to have had a physical disability, was found innocent of all charges and was released.
“We can categorically state he had not taken any indecent images and that nothing of concern had been found on his computer,” a police spokesman said, according to The Telegraph.
On July 14, Ebrahimi was reportedly beaten unconscious by a 24-year-old local resident named Lee James. The young man, with the help of Stephen Norley, also 24, then set Ebrahimi on fire after dousing him with alcohol.
Both James and Norley, described as vigilantes by the U.K. press, have reportedly admitted to the murder. James is believed to have threatened to “take the law into his own hands” in the days prior to the horrific crime.
This week, police admitted they were partially to blame for the brutal slaying. Nick Gargan, Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset police, said that authorities “failed” Ebrahimi.
“Why wasn’t that poor man better served by us?” Gargan said, according to the BBC. “It’s important for the statutory agencies and voluntary just to sit down together and go through whatever process is necessary to understand how we failed that man.”
The BBC reports that the police officers involved in Ebrahimi’s arrest have been “served with notices of gross misconduct” by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a police watchdog group.
Ebrahimi’s family says they hope the people responsible for his tragic death will be held accountable for their actions.
“It should not be forgotten that Bijan had been the victim of hate crimes for a number of years before his death, both due to his race and his physical disability,” the family said in a statement, per the Independent. “It was for this reason that the police should have taken especially seriously his calls for help in the days before he was murdered.”
“We hope that not only James and Norley will face justice but also all of those who failed to protect Bijan, including the police,” the statement continued.