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Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Imran Khan and Partners represented the family of Zahid Mubarek. Zahid was 19 when he was murdered by his racist cell mate Robert Stewart at Feltham Young Offenders Institution on the 21st March 2000. 

Zahid’s family called for a Public Inquiry to find out what led to the prison placing him in a cell with a known racist. This led to a landmark judgment from the House of Lord’s (R v Secretary of State Ex Parte Amin [2003] UKHL 51) and a Public Inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Keith which reported in June 2006. The Report of the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry gave 88 recommendations for change in the prison system in Britain.

Case timeline

23rd October 1980

Zahid Mubarek was born at Whipps Cross Hospital, East London. Raised in Walthamstow, East London. 

10th January 2000

Robert Stewart is transferred to Feltham Young Offenders Institution (YOI), West London from Hindley Prison and Young Offenders Institution, Wigan. Stewart is noted for his strange behaviour amongst inmates and has 18 separate convictions for 71 offences.

17th January 2000

Zahid is sent to Feltham Young Offenders Institution after being found guilty of stealing razors and interfering with a motor vehicle. He moves to Cell 38, in Swallow Unit. He initially shares the cell with another prisoner, G.

8th February 2000

Robert Stewart is moved into the same cell as Zahid Mubarek.

28th February 2000

Zahid is sentenced to three months in a Young Offenders Institution by Waltham Forest Magistrates Court.

21st March 2000 (3.35am approx)

The night patrol officer is alerted by Stewart activating Cell 38 internal alarm. He had hit Zahid about the head with a table leg.

21st March 2000 (4.35am)

An ambulance takes Zahid to Ashford General Hospital, Middlesex.

28th March 2000

Zahid dies at Charing Cross Hospital at 1.35am, after being in a coma for a week.

7th April 2000

Members of Zahid’s family and IKP meet with Minister for Home Affairs, Paul Boateng to press for a public inquiry.

23rd October 2000

The trial of Robert Stewart gets underway at Kingston Crown Court.

1st November 2000

Stewart is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. IKP and the family call for an immediate Inquiry into the attack. At a Press Conference at the end of Stewart’s trial, the family states that `an apology from the Prison Service is not enough’ and asks “why was a known racist sharing a cell with an Asian?”

13th November 2000

Part 1 of the internal investigation conducted by Ted Butt, on behalf of the Prison Service into the death of Zahid Mubarek is published. Part 1 of the two-part Report looks into the investigation and information gained from the criminal trial of Robert Stewart. Part 2 promises to examine racist attitudes and behaviour at Feltham YOI.

17th November 2000

The Home Office asks the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) to launch a formal investigation into racism in the prison service. The CRE announces that it will be examining three prisons: HMP Brixton, YOI Feltham, and the privately-run Parc prison.

22nd January 2001

The second part of Ted Butts report into racism at Feltham YOI is published. Ted Butt’s Report finds examples of institutional racism within the prison. Martin Narey, Director of the Prison Service says “There is evidence that racism exists at Feltham, both overtly and by more subtle methods.”

11th March 2001

Nick Pascoe, Governor of Feltham Young Offenders Institution tells BBC One’s Panorama programme that similar attacks could happen again.

12th April 2001

Martin Narey says some staff promoted `overtly racist behaviour`. His remark gets attacked as `insulting` by a committee member of the local branch of the Prison Officers` Association.

30th July 2001

IKP gain permission from the High Court to challenge the Home Secretary’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the death of Zahid. At the same time the family also seeks a judicial review into the terms of the Inquiry of the CRE investigation into the Prison Service and makes representations to HM Coroner for West London convening the Inquest into Zahid’s death.

4th September 2001

Mr Justice Hooper at the High Court rules that the Home Secretary must hold `an independent investigation` under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

5th October 2001

Mr Justice Hooper explains his reasons for his ruling. He explains only an independent Inquiry would fulfil the Home Secretary’s obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Home Secretary appeals the decision.

27th March 2002

The Appeal Court allows an appeal by the Home Secretary against the High Court ruling that there should be an independent Inquiry. The Home Secretary argues that a new investigation is unnecessary because enough details emerged at Stewart’s trial.

14th June 2002

The Director-General of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, attacks the CRE for its unfinished two-year-long investigation into prison racism. He argues that the delay has been hindering efforts to tackle racism in prisons. The CRE faces further embarrassment when it  is revealed that one of the reasons for the delay in the official Inquiry was because the tapes of 60 interviews about the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham YOI has gone missing.

9th July 2003

After a delay of almost 18 months, the Commission for Race Equality publishes its report into racism at Feltham YOI. The CRE report finds a shocking catalogue of failures, and says `systematic failures` in prison procedures failed to spot that Zahid would be in danger. However it does not place a legal notice against the Prison Service, which would order it to carry out the changes, and instead announces that it will be working with the Prison Service to improve the situation.

15th October 2002

A report published by HM Inspector of Prisons announces that Feltham YOI is `well on the way to becoming a healthy and positive environment’.

16th October 2003

Following the Home Secretary’s failure to conduct an Inquiry, the family appeals to the House of Lords which overturns the Court of Appeal decision and sides with the family. It orders the Home Secretary to hold an Inquiry arguing that the state has a duty to investigate Zahid’s death because it was the result of prison failings.

29th April 2004

The Government announces a Public Inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek. The Inquiry is to be chaired by a High Court judge, Mr Justice Keith. He is to be assisted by three advisers with expertise in race and prisons.  The Prison’s Minister Paul Goggins tells the family he believes a non-statutory Inquiry is best, and says if witnesses refuse to cooperate it could be given more robust powers. He believes a “less heavy handed approach” is more likely to “elicit real openness”.

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry 25th May 2004

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry opens at the Royal Courts of Justice. The Chair outlines the issues to be investigated in a series of public hearings to be held from September 2004.

28th May 2004

The Sun newspaper reports claims that prison officers at Feltham YIO placed bets on fights between black and white inmates. The Prison Service says it has passed details onto the police.

12th November 2004

A spokesperson for the Public Inquiry announces that the Inquiry will look into the claims that prison officers set up gladiator-style fights.

18th November 2004

The Inquiry into Zahid Mubarek’s death officially opens. The terms of the Inquiry state “In the light of the House of Lords judgement in the case of Regina v. Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Amin, to investigate and report to the Home Secretary on the death of Zahid Mubarek, and the events leading up to the attack on him, and make recommendations about the prevention of such attacks in the future, taking into account the investigations that have already taken place – in particular, those by the Prison Service and the Commission for Racial Equality.”

19th November 2004

The Inquiry hears that before killing Zahid Mubarek, Robert Stewart corresponded with other inmates who had killed a prisoner in jail.  A month before the murder, Stewart had written a letter saying he would dress as a member of the Klu Klux Khan carrying a flaming crucifix, and kill his cell-mate.

23rd November 2004

The Inquiry is told that Robert Stewart wrote a letter specifically threatening `Pakis` weeks before killing Zahid Mubarek. Prison Officer Deborah Hogg thought Robert Stewart was dangerous before he was placed with Zahid. She told the Inquiry `Robert was someone who stood out as someone who was not normal`. On 12th January 2000 she intercepted a letter from Stewart to a friend, which used threatening and racist language. She sought advice from fellow officer Steven Martindale who told her the letter was not acceptable and should be handed back to Stewart. Feltham`s culture was one where the reporting of racist incidents `was not something that loomed particularly large` in officers’ minds, explained Mr Martindale.

25th November 2004

Records from the night of the murder were missing, the Inquiry is told. Patrol sheets for the wing that the murder took place along with locking reporting sheets were missing. Senior Prison Officer David Comber tells the Inquiry `they are missing from the security office. I do not know why these documents are missing`.

26th November 2004

The Inquiry is told by Zahid’s father Amin Mubarek, that Zahid had asked for a transfer because he feared his eventual killer.

6th December 2004

Robert Stewart presents written evidence admitting the attack was driven by racism. `I admit that racial prejudice played some part` he says. He also supported the claim that Zahid had asked to be moved to share a cell with fellow prisoner Jamie Barnes. He was there when he asked to be moved he said.

10th December 2004

The acting Deputy Governor of Feltham told the Inquiry that prison officers tried to separate inmates from different backgrounds thinking the policy would stop clashes. Keith Greenslade said officers had a `naive` view of racism and when asked about the gladiator-style fights added an officer could have deliberately housed a racist with a ‘black or Asian prisoner’.

20th December 2004

Prison Officer Keith Denman tells the Inquiry that conditions at Feltham YOI were `appalling…like a pigsty`. Asked whether prisoners were so demoralised and badly behaved that they were viewed as animals he replied `I would have to agree with you, yes`. The Inquiry also heard that staff sickness was high and caused problems because the youth jail could not recruit new staff to replace them. Further, that the personnel department was in such a mess they did not know how many officers there were on the payroll, Mr Denman said.

22nd December 2004

The Inquiry hears that prison officers responding to the first alarm call broke the guidelines by leaving the murderer Stewart with Zahid. Instead of sounding an alarm outside the cell or radioing, Malcolm Nicholson returned to his office. This gave Zahid’s racist cell-mate Robert Stewart at least another four minutes to continue attacking the 19 year old. The Inquiry hears that Mr Nicholson did not ring medics at the first sight of blood, but instead called senior officer Gerard McAlaney.Other evidence which comes to light in witness statements include:

• Before the attack, Mr Nicholson was in his office with two doors shut, listening to the radio at a high volume;

• A call to the healthcare centre was not specified as urgent, so a healthcare officer attended without rushing;

• As the call gave no details, the medical officer arrived with the wrong equipment – plasters and bandages, instead of a neck brace and oxygen;

• Stewart was moved to a cell with a basin where he could have washed off some of the evidence;

• It took eight minutes before an ambulance was called for Zahid;

• The night patrol report sheets from the night were not secured and have been lost.

23rd December 2004

A report published by Hounslow Race Equality Council from focus groups held at Feltham YOI reveals `widespread` racism at the Institute. The report reveals that Black and Ethnic Minority inmates were victims of racial taunts by prison officers and states`we were aware that racial abuse from some of the white prison officers was common practice’. Satvinder Buttar, the author of the report said inmates had not been encouraged to report cases of racial abuse, and only five or six had been reported every month, but since the report the number had increased to 50 or 60 per month.

6th January 2005

The Inquiry hears that Feltham independent monitoring board had told two Home Secretaries, Michael Howard and Jack Straw, that violence was flourishing at the prison. Lucy Bogue, former chair, said ministers took no action over self-harm, overcrowding and assaults at the prison. “It is my opinion that the concerns raised by the independent monitoring board, and the lack of response received was the key to the lack of adequate care delivered not only to Zahid Mubarek, but also to all boys who were at Feltham during that time.” Ms Bogue said both the prison service management and Prison Officers Association had to shoulder the blame for conditions at Feltham. Inside the institution itself, the visitors gained the impression that the “strained relationship” between management and staff was largely down to a “militant and reactionary” stance from the Prison Officers Association.

12th January 2006

Former Governor of Feltham YOI, Niall Clifford tells the Inquiry that officers falsified records contributing to performance targets. Mr Clifford, who had been head-hunted to turn the prison around, left after 13 months. Mr Clifford said officers falsified records on `regime` conditions, documenting what life is like inside the Prison. In a report into prison management published after Zahid’s death, Lord Laming wrote `staff believed he would be there for three years during which time they believed he would be responsible for implementing much needed changes….the governor was promoted to area manager after one year in post…this meant Feltham has had three governors in the last three years…the negative effect of such frequent moves is substantial and it was mentioned as the most common reason why a prison fails to succeed`.

13th January 2005

Nicolas Pascoe, who took over as Governor after Zahid’s death, tells the Inquiry that staff were off sick so much that managers lost track of some staff. Many staff routinely took long weekends in complete breach of prison rules. Mr Pascoe said he took over the jail seven months after the attack and immediately found a litany of problems. His team found a group of officers who had been off sick who were known as the `resettlement group`. In some cases, personnel officers did not know the names of the staff in this group. Some had not been seen for months, if not years, and one in ten staff was unavailable because of absence. Asked how long it took him to sort the problem he replied “I would say that it took me two and a half years. I think it went beyond that”.

17th January 2005

The Inquiry hears that staff had handcuffed a prisoner to the cell bars, removed his trousers and boots and blackened his backside. When asked if there was a race dimension to this, Nicholas Pascoe, the former governor replied the prisoner was certainly an ethnic minority, ” I do not believe he was black”. The victim was awarded £30,000 in compensation, and though prison officers were disciplined, none lost their job.

18th January 2005

The Inquiry hears that a nurse, Ms Martin, who suspected the intentions of Robert Stewart, did not alert others for fear of labelling him as a potential killer. Ms Martin told the Inquiry that before Zahid’s death she had overheard conversations between Stewart and another prisoner which made her fear they were capable of attacking other inmates, rather than just injuring themselves. She said “I thought that if these boys are going to go through the system and you say they are capable of stabbing or hurting someone, you are just labelling them on a gut feeling and that would stay with them through the system”.

25th January 2005

The Inquiry hears that a psychiatric nurse concluded that Robert Stewart had an untreatable mental condition months before the killing. Christopher Kinealy wrote on Stewarts prison record “In my opinion he has a long standing deep-seated personality disorder. He shows a glaring lack of remorse, feeling, insight, foresight or any other emotion. ..In my opinion he has a untreatable mental condition and I recommend no further action. Only time will have any influence on his personality and behaviour.” He told the Inquiry he did not believe he was a threat to others, and therefore did not pass his concerns onto governors.  However, Professor John Gunn, an expert psychiatrist commissioned by the Inquiry concluded Stewart should have been medically treated, even though he was probably not curable.

2nd February 2005

Harold Dunne, Head of Operations at Hindley prison, from where Stewart was transferred to Feltham YOI, told the Inquiry that transfer forms for prisoners were regularly filled incorrectly. As a result violent and racist prisoners were transferred without security warnings. Robert Stewart was transferred nine times without security warnings. Mr Dunne said “it was a serious oversight” that early warning boxes were not ticked which would have indicated Stewart was a risk.

4th February 2005

The Inquiry hears that in 1997 whilst Stewart was at Hindley prison he had started fires, twice put a noose around his neck, deliberately injured himself, flooded his cell and smeared faeces on the walls. He had been prescribed anti-depressants, but had only taken them intermittently. Dr Andrew Greenwood, former head of the prison’s medical team responded to Dexter Dias – one of the Counsel representing the family –  when he said “the thing is.. despite this catalogue of disturbed behaviour, there was no case conference called to assess Stewart” with “No, I am afraid you need to understand the context more of what can appear normal in prison or abnormal”.

7th February 2005

Martin Narey, the former director general of the prison service says he considered resigning after the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek. He said the level of care at Feltham was “woefully inadequate, and that the regime fell far short of my aspirations for decent prisons.”

10th February 2005

A Prison Officer, Julia Goodman, denied to the Inquiry that she deliberately placed Robert Stewart with Zahid Mubarek. Leading Counsel for the family, Mr O’Connor, asked her if by ignoring two other possible cell options for Stewart on that night, neither of which involved an Asian prisoner, the officer had ignored “all factor of common sense and safety….I suggest it was not casual, accidental. Something else was going on in your mind. Did you and your colleagues ever get bored?” “Never, no” she replied.

14th February 2005

Phil Wheatley, deputy director of the Prison Service tells the Inquiry that reforms at the jail that started within Feltham YOI were reversed due to Zahid’s death. “I think knock-back is almost too light an expression for what happened… there was a major prison service inquiry going on, the police were contemplating corporate manslaughter charges. Instead of it being a smooth process of change, that event overwhelmed the place and some of the people in it”.

17th February 2005

Two psychiatrists tell the Inquiry that the murder of Zahid was not racist: “each of us believes Robert Stewart killed Zahid Mubarek impulsively in an abnormal state of mind. Neither of us believes that the killing was premeditated or racist.” Both experts believed Stewart should have been assessed three years earlier, after the wardens at the previous jail had raised concerns about Stewart.

25th February 2005

The Inquiry was read a letter by Robert Stewart months before the attack suggesting he could commit the “first murder of the Millennium”. In another letter he gloated that, despite his link to the previous killing, he had been made a kitchen orderly with access to knives. By this point he had been involved in stabbing another inmate below the eye. Giving evidence, Joyce O`Mara, a probation officer, said that had she been aware of these letters, she would have filed a security report.

3rd March 2005

Union official Duncan Keys told the Inquiry that wardens put Stewart into Zahid’s cell to “see what would happen”.  Mr Keys first made the allegations when he anonymously phoned the CRE in May 2004. He told the Inquiry “I’m no bleeding heart on this but that kid was murdered for other people’s perverted pleasure……the game was called Coliseum. Mubarek was killed because people thought it was funny to see what would happen when they put a young Asian lad in with someone who wanted to kill Asians.” He added that Mr Mubarek was not the only victim of the game, but he was the only victim who had died. Mr Keys named Nigel Herring, chair of the Feltham Prison Officers Association as one of those who had been talking about the practice.

4th March 2005

The prison officer allegedly involved in organising “gladiator-style” fights between inmates denied games led to the death of Zahid Mubarek. Nigel Herring said there was a smear campaign against him. He denied ever having been party to the practice of arranging fights. He said the first time he had heard of the game was when rumours circulated amongst union officials but were dismissed as “utter nonsense”.

9th March 2006

Black and ethnic minority prisoners across the country were often racially abused by staff, the Inquiry heard. Ex-prison race advisor, Judy Clements, said she received “countless reports of alleged ill treatment as well as alleged blatant racism”.  She told the Inquiry, prison staff were “in complete denial” about such racism, consequently they seldom intervened. Prisoners often complained to her of being “shipped out” if they complained of racist behaviour from fellow prisoners or staff and of being placed in segregation units.

11th March 2005

The Inquiry hears that an Asian inmate was badly beaten in a racist attack weeks before Zahid Mubarek’s murder in Feltham YOI. The teenager was left without help for 24 hours and, when he did receive treatment, needed 19 days in hospital with a broken jaw and other injuries. The Inquiry was told the Prison Services’ Muslim advisor was “deeply shocked”. He wrote to the governor of Feltham YOI, Nick Pascoe saying staff appeared “so casual” about the attack by two white inmates. Mr Ahmed claimed the two alleged attackers were “allowed to carry on with their practice of harassment and beating young vulnerable Muslim prisoners.” Although the two assailants were immediately identified to staff, they were never disciplined. Despite the victim and his Asian friend, who was also attacked, giving statements at the time, police were not called in for a year. When they investigated they charged the two suspects with causing actual bodily harm.

28th April 2005

Prison officials who failed to save Zahid Mubarek should be named, Counsel Nigel Giffen tells the Inquiry. “There were as many as 15 occasions when individual prison staff – sometimes identifiable, sometimes not – might have influenced the course of events if they had acted differently in response to the information they had.“ He reminds the Inquiry of the submission by the Mubarek family’s Counsel that they wanted anyone criticised in the Inquiry Report to be named.

End of First Phase of Inquiry

Following the end of the first part of the Inquiry, six seminars were organised in Part 2 of the Inquiry on various aspects raised during the hearings which ranged from cell-sharing to racism and religious intolerance. The events were aimed at helping the Inquiry Chair Mr Justice Keith to assess what recommendations he should make to the Home Secretary to minimise the chances of a tragedy such as Zahid’s murder happening again.

29th June 2006

The report into the death of Zahid Mubarek is published.


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