'Fatal arson targeted wrong house'

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An innocent family perished in a petrol-fuelled blaze at their home when it was mistakenly targeted in a revenge attack following the fatal stabbing of a fitness coach, a court has heard.

Shehnila Taufiq, 47, her 19-year-old daughter Zainab, and sons Bilal, 17, and Jamal, 15, all died when the fire engulfed their terraced house in Wood Hill, Leicester, in the early hours of September 13 last year.

Kemo Porter, 19, Tristan Richards, 22, Nathaniel Mullings, 19, Shaun Carter, 24, Jackson Powell, 20, Aaron Webb, 20, Aaron Jeffers, 21, and a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named for legal reasons, each deny murdering the family

Opening the Crown's case against the eight defendants in their trial at Nottingham Crown Court today, prosecutor Richard Latham QC told the jury the fire was a "retribution process" for the fatal stabbing of their friend, Antoin Akpom, hours earlier.

Mr Latham told the jury the Taufiq family had no connection to the incident involving Mr Akpom or the eight defendants.

The court heard that Mr Akpom had been stabbed in the back in a "confrontation" involving two 19-year-olds, Hussain Hussain and Abdul Hakim, at around 5.30pm on September 12, less than a mile away in Kent Street. He was pronounced dead in hospital at 7pm.

Hussain was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years for Mr Akpom's murder following a trial at Stafford Crown Court earlier this month.

The jury was told that Hakim's mother lived two doors down from the arson attack on the Taufiq family home.

Mr Latham said: "They simply got the wrong house - a tragedy."

The jury heard that the fire was set at 12.30am on September 13 - five and a half hours after Mr Akpom was pronounced dead in hospital.

Mr Latham told the court the fire was started when petrol was poured through the letterbox of the Taufiqs' home and ignited.

The blaze took hold at the bottom of the staircase, trapping the family, who were asleep upstairs.

Firefighters who attended the blaze described it as "one of the most ferocious property fires they had attended", Mr Latham told the jury.

"Nothing could be done for Shehnila and her children. They all died in the fire."

The court was told the Ms Taufiq's husband, Dr Taufiq Sattar, was working in Dublin at the time of the blaze.

The neurosurgeon, who sat in the public gallery of the court today, had spoken to his family just an hour before the fire was set, Mr Latham said.

Mr Latham claimed there was "an evolving plan which resulted in all eight being in Wood Hill moments before the fire".

He alleged the defendants were all present when the fire started and had "acted in concert".

"All the defendants were there and willing and able to give support to the enterprise," Mr Latham told the jury.

Following the attack, the prosecutor alleged the defendants made off in two groups before meeting up later in the centre of Leicester.

"If any one of them had been a mere spectator to this horrendous act, they would have wanted nothing more to do with it," Mr Latham said.

The court heard Mullings, Webb, Powell and Jeffers went to the home of Joe French in the hours after Akpom's stabbing.

Mr French, who had been with father-of-one Akpom when he was stabbed, told police he remembered them talking about the coach.

Mr French told officers that he remembered "we have to make him proud" and "we have to look after his son" being mentioned during their visit, Mr Latham told the jury.

The trial was adjourned until 10am tomorrow.

Porter, of Browning Street, Leicester; Richards, of Sparkenhoe Street, Leicester; Mullings, of Farringdon Street, Northfield, Leicester; Carter, of Franche Road, Leicester; Powell, of Burnside Road, Leicester; Webb, of Saltersford Road, Leicester; Jeffers, of Carr Mills, Buslingthorpe, Leeds and a 17-year-old from Leicester, were all remanded back in to custody.

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