Mohammed Abbkr: Man guilty of setting fire to worshippers after they left mosques in London and Birmingham | UK News

A man has been found guilty of attempting to murder two elderly worshippers by setting them alight after they left mosques in London and Birmingham.

Mohammed Abbkr, 29, prayed with the congregation before waiting for victims Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, outside.

He followed both men before spraying them with petrol from a water bottle and using a lighter to set them on fire.

Birmingham Crown Court heard Abbkr set fire to Mr Odowa on 27 February as he made his way to a neighbour’s car outside West Ealing Islamic Centre, in west London.

Mr Odowa escaped serious injury as he was able to remove his burning jacket and vest, while his neighbour removed his burning hat and took off his own jacket to help smother the flames.

Abbkr, of Gillott Road, Edgbaston, then attacked Mr Rayaz around 100 miles away on 20 March after he left the Dudley Road Mosque in Birmingham.

CCTV captured Mr Rayaz’s shouts of pain as he was engulfed in a ball of flame, which subsided to reveal he was on fire from head to foot.

Abbkr then threw more petrol onto the flames, causing a second fireball to engulf his victim.

Mohammed Rayaz (right) and Hashi Odowa (left)
Mohammed Rayaz (right) and Hashi Odowa (left)

Abbkr used a water bottle filled with fuel and a lighter
Abbkr used a water bottle filled with fuel and a lighter

Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai, from West Midlands Police, said both men were left with “long-lasting physical injuries and significant mental trauma”.

Counter-terrorism officers were involved in the investigation into the attacks in the run-up to Ramadan but no motive has been identified.

“This was not treated as a terrorist incident. To date there is no evidence of an ideology,” the officer said.

“These were horrific unprovoked attacks on two men in their 70s and 80s who were leaving their local mosques and going home after their prayers.”

Mohammed Abbkr (red arrow) following Mohammed Rayaz (blue arrow), 70 after leaving a prayer service at the Dudley Road Mosque
Abbkr following Mohammed Rayaz after leaving a prayer service in Birmingham

Mohammed Rayaz's burnt jacket
Mohammed Rayaz’s burnt jacket

Abbkr, who came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later, had denied two counts of attempted murder and two alternative counts of maliciously administering a destructive thing to endanger life.

Jurors were told he admitted to setting the victims on fire but they had to determine whether he had intended to kill his victims and if he had known what he was doing and that it was wrong.

They heard evidence from psychiatrists who said he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attacks.

Abbkr told his trial he believed those he had set on fire were among several people “controlling him through magic” and claimed he did not expect them to have been hurt.

But the prosecution encouraged the jury to reject the defence of insanity, arguing that Abbkr had known what he was doing was wrong and had intended to kill his victims.