Inquest into the death of Shahid Aziz

On Monday, 30 April 2007, legal history will be made when a convicted murderer will give evidence at an inquest into a prison death.

BACKGROUND

Shahid Aziz was murdered by Peter McCann in a cell on A wing in Leeds prison, shortly after 11.30am on 2 April 2004, although the two of them had only met for the first time that morning.

Peter McCann pleaded guilty to the murder in July 2004 and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a 12 year ‘tariff’, which was based on submissions that were not subject to any evidential scrutiny, namely that Shahid Aziz produced a weapon, a ‘home made’ knife, which Peter McCann had used on Shahid during a ‘fight’. In other words, the basis of the guilty plea was that McCann’s actions had begun in self defence, but that he had gone too far in defending himself.

The inquest, which began on 16 April 2007 before an eleven strong jury and HM Coroner David Hinchliffe, has already heard evidence from over thirty witnesses, including Professor Milroy (the pathologist in the case). He told the jury that Shahid had thirteen distinct injuries from a frenzied attack and that:

Shahid was probably attacked from behind

  • He was strangled with a ligature, which was most probably the aerial flex for the TV for the cell
  • His throat was cut at twice, cutting his ear badly as well as his throat
  • His jaw was broken
  • He was struck over the head (twice) by a blunt implement, probably a chair

On Monday 30 April the inquest, sitting in Court 9 at Leeds Crown Court, 1 Oxford Row, Leeds, will hear from the following witnesses:

Peter McCann

Darren McGuinness

EVIDENCE OF RISING RISK

The inquest jury have already heard that Mr McCann was a dangerous and violent young man:

  • He previously attacked another prisoner by hitting him over the head with a mallet for which he was convicted in April 2000 for ‘wounding’ (GBH)
  • In February 2000 he attacked another inmate with a razor blade (which was dealt with by an internal prison disciplinary charge)
  • On 20 February 2004, when in HMP Leeds, McCann attacked another inmate with a razor blade and also injured a prison officer.

The victims in these cases all state that these were unprovoked surprise attacks.

After the last incident, staff at HMP Leeds noticed that Mr McCann behaviour was erratic, unpredictable and aggressive.  They isolated him from other inmates and recommended that he be seen by a visiting mental health worker.  However, he was released before this happened.

About three weeks after his release, on 12 March 2004, he was arrested for theft from HMV in Wakefield, when he tried to dispose of a concealed knife and was subsequently arrested and charged with carrying a bladed article.

On 25 March 2004, whilst on bail in a hostel, he was discovered to be concealing yet another bladed weapon, this time a deliberately sharpened dining knife. As this was an offence against the hostel rules, it resulted in his bail being revoked and he was sent back to HMP Leeds on the same day, when staff failed to bring any of the prison and hostel records together. Nor did they have his previous convictions for violence despite the fact that these were readily accessible.

On 31 March, after a probation officer DID bring together Mr McCann’s history above, she immediately called the prison to warn them of her concerns about McCann’s dangerousness, particularly in custodial situations. She was so concerned that she called the prison again on 1 April 2004 when she passed on the same concerns to the security department. They failed to act on her warnings.

Mr McGuiness (who is also due to give evidence on 30 April 2007) shared a cell with Mr McCann on 1 April 2004 and will give evidence about his own concerns and the warnings he gave to staff on the morning of 2 April 2004, while Mr McCann was being moved to share a cell with Mr Aziz.

On 2 April, about one hour after being placed in the same cell on A wing, an alarm was raised and Mr Aziz was found with his throat cut and the other injuries described above.

This Monday, 30 April 2007, the family will be seeking answers from Mr McCann as to what really happened in cell A3 – 02 on 2nd April 2004.