A judge was moved to tears and praised the dignity shown by a Yorkshire family whose eight family members were murdered in a house fire as he sentenced their killer to life in prison.
His Honour Justice Robin Spencer was visibly emotional and his voice broke as he paid his own tribute to the Chishti family, after five children and three adult family members were killed in a blaze at their home in Birkby, Huddersfield on May 12, 2002.
Their murderer, Shahid Mohammed, 37, was found guilty of eight counts of murder and yesterday sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 23 years.
The judge said: “May I pay my own tribute to the courage of (brother and sister) Saddiquah Aziz and Mohammed Shafique who survived the fire and attempted so valiantly to rescue those trapped in the house.
“I know they would have gladly have given their own lives to save others.”
The victims were asleep in their home on Osborne Road, when petrol bombs were thrown inside the property, with petrol also being poured through the letterbox and ignited in the early hours of May 12, 2002.
Mohammed had been investigated by the police for his role in setting the fire, but while others stood trial in 2003 he instead skipped bail and fled to Pakistan.
After more than a decade on the run, he was extradited back to the UK last year.
A five-week trial at Leeds Crown Court heard how, in the lead-up to the fire, Mohammed had taken against Saud Pervez, the boyfriend of his sister, Shahida.
Prosecutors said that Mohammed Ateeq-Ur-Rehman, known as Ateeq,one of those who died in the fire, was the likely target of the arson attack as he had played an “active part” in maintaining the relationship.
As well as 18-year-old Ateeq, his sister Nafeesa Aziz, 35, died along with her children, Tayyaba Batool, 13, Rabina Batool, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, five, Aneesa Zawaz, two, and Najeebah Nawaz, who was six months old.
Zaib-Un-Nisa, 54, the children’s grandmother and mother of Ms Aziz and Ateeq, died in hospital after jumping out of a window in a bid to escape the flames during the attack, which took place on May 12, 2002.
A year after the killings, three men were convicted at a trial of their involvement, with Shaied Iqbal being found guilty of eight counts of murder, while Shakiel Shazad and Nazar Hussain were convicted of manslaughter.
Despite his attempts to evade justice, Mohammed was located and arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on January 22, 2015.
Sentencing him, His Honour Justice Spencer said: “The Chishti family have had to live for all these years with the knowledge that one of the men responsible for these wicked murders had not been brought to justice. Now at least they have that closure.
“They have faced the ordeal of this trial with outstanding dignity. Old psychological wounds have been opened up once again.
“The lives of eight precious family members across three generations were wiped out that night.
“Those left behind to grieve will never come to terms with their loss. Words cannot express the depth of their pain and despair.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Rab-Nawaz Khan, the father of the five children that died and husband to Nafeesa Aziz, cried as he said: “I will never see again my wife and my daughters.
“I am so upset, every day I think about my wife and my daughters, I just don’t know what to say.”
The Chishti family also praised officers at West Yorkshire Police for working tirelessly to bring Mohammed to justice, saying detectives went “well beyond their call of duty”.