Special Report on the first phase of the Mubarek
The first phase of the public inquiry into the murder of Zahid
Mubarek by his racist cellmate Robert Stewart at Feltham Young
Offender Institution has now drawn to a close.
Since it began in November 2004, the inquiry chairperson Mr
Justice Keith has heard from 62 oral witnesses, received 143
witness statements and considered a more than 15,000 pages of
Ahead of the inquiry’s report following phase two, which
is due to complete later this year, we examine the evidence so
Zahid Mubarek, 19, a first-time offender, was sent to Feltham
YOI in January 2000 for theft and interfering with a motor vehicle.
He was just two days from release when he was battered to death
with a table leg by his cellmate Robert Stewart, then also 19, at
Feltham YOI in March 2000.
Stewart had 18 separate convictions for 71 offences and had
served a number of sentences at different custodial establishments.
He was transferred from Hindley YOI in Yorkshire to Feltham for
court appearances in London in January 2000 and placed in a cell
with Mubarek in February.
On 1 November 2000, Stewart was found guilty of murder and
sentenced to life imprisonment.
A police investigation and an investigation by the Commission for
Racial Equality followed the killing.
However, the Mubarek family felt neither investigation answered
why their son had been placed in the cell with Stewart and won a
public inquiry following a four-year battle with the Home
Phase one – the big issues
|Robert Stewart (picture:
The debate around the mental health of Robert Stewart and his
treatment by professionals has been divided between those who
believed Stewart should have received a psychiatric referral and
those who did not.
Stewart’s diagnosis of a ‘long-standing, deep-seated
personality disorder,’ has also come under scrutiny, and the
availability of mental health services for prisoners at the time of
Mubarek’s murder has been examined.
Christopher Kinealy, a psychiatric nurse who met
Stewart at Altcourse prison four months before the murder admitted
he made a “serious” mistake in claiming Stewart had an
“untreatable” personality disorder.
The inquiry heard that Kinealy had recommended “no further
action” following his assessment of Stewart.
Kinealy pointed out to the inquiry that Stewart, who is now at
Woodhill Prison, had still not been transferred to a psychiatric
Dr Andrew Greenwood, a doctor at Hindley YOI
argued that Stewart had “full insight” into his
activities and behaviour, and did not believe he was suffering from
a mental illness.
Professor John Gunn, former chair of forensic
psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, was commissioned
to write a report for the inquiry to help assess the way in which
Stewart was dealt with at Hindley YOI prior to killing Mubarek at
He stated that Stewart should have been referred to a psychiatrist
as a result of his behaviour, and said an assessment may have
prevented Stewart from being placed in a cell with Mubarek.
|Writing found on the wall of
the cell that Mubarek shared
The inquiry has heard of a number of racially motivated
incidents that occurred at Feltham between both staff and
residents, and how a culture of racism operated at Feltham
compounded by a lack of race relations training and
Nicholas Pascoe, a former Feltham governor told
the inquiry of a case where prison staff at Feltham handcuffed an
inmate from an ethnic minority background to cell bars and smeared
black boot polish on his buttocks.
Three members of staff were given a final written warning, but were
not prosecuted after a critical witness failed to appear and their
defence of “horseplay” was accepted by the court.
The prison officers were still working at Feltham two years later
when Mubarek was beaten to death by Stewart.
Michael Cowan, head of operations at Feltham,
described how staff “visibly shut down” when they attended race
Robert Stewart admitted to the inquiry for the
first time that racial prejudice had played a part in his murder of
Maqsood Ahmed, a Prison Service advisor, told the
inquiry that an Asian prisoner was brutally assaulted by two white
inmates at Feltham but staff did not refer him to hospital until 24
hours later, just two months before Mubarek’s death.
Judy Clements, a prison race equality advisor said
she heard “disturbing” allegations of serious violence
against black and ethnic minority prisoners and said prison staff
and management were in “complete denial” of issues
relating to racism in a number of institutions.
A report by Hounslow Racial Equality Council given to the inquiry
revealed that officers at Feltham routinely called black and Asian
inmates “monkeys” and “black bastards” and
told “they should be sent back to their own
THE ‘GLADIATOR’ ALLEGATIONS
|Mr Justice Keith –
Allegations that prison officers at Feltham deliberately placed
Mubarek and Stewart in the same cell as part of a
‘Gladiator’ game to set black and white inmates against
each other were put to the inquiry in a storm of media
Duncan Keys, assistant general secretary of the
Prison Officers’ Association, claimed that Mubarek was
battered to death by Stewart after they were placed together in a
game created for the “perverted pleasure” of prison
He named Nigel Herring, the then branch chair
of the POA at Feltham as the instigator of the game.
Keys said the allegations had come to his attention following a
conversation with a member of the prison officer’s National
Executive Committee, Tom Robson.
Keys alleged that Robson had a conversation with Herring where
the game was mentioned and Herring reportedly found it
However, Robson told the inquiry he could not recall the
conversation, and Keys admitted he had no direct evidence about the
Nigel Herring dismissed the allegations as a
“malicious” smear campaign and described them as a
He said “rumours” of the game had surfaced during a period of
“bad feeling” between the Feltham POA and the POA National
Executive Committee last year.
STAFF CULTURE AND CONDUCT
The inquiry has heard evidence of low morale, a
“desensitised” culture and a number of staff failures
to carry out duties at Feltham in the time leading up to and after
the murder. There has also been evidence of industrial conflicts
between the prison officer’s union and the management at
Michael Cowan, head of operations at Feltham,
said a culture of “defeatism” was rife at Feltham at
the time of Mubarek’s death.
David Comber, principal officer in charge of
Feltham’s security department, admitted that eight night
patrol sheets and locking up reports from the night of
Mubarek’s murder had gone missing. Cowan admitted that it was
“possible” that officers had allegedly “taken a handful” of the
night patrol records to cover up for a missing record from
Niall Clifford, governor of Feltham at the time of
the killing, said that prison officers had “fabricated”
prison records, and claimed staff had been “lazy” in
failing to record “exactly what was occurring” in the
Clive Welsh, a former Feltham governor, told the
inquiry that up to five staff at Feltham Young Offender Institution
were suspended “at any one time” for alleged assaults on inmates in
the period preceding Zahid Mubarek’s death.
Sundeep Chahal, a prison officer, admitted that he
had had failed to spot a broken table leg which Stewart used to
kill Mubarek. He said he had carried out a cell search on the
morning of the murder but did not notice the faulty table.
TREATMENT OF YOUNG OFFENDERS
|Bobby Cummines – adviser to
The inquiry has heard how former director general of the Prison
Service Martin Narey felt his attempts to introduce a
‘decency agenda’ at Feltham were thwarted by a negative
Niall Clifford, governor of Feltham YOI at the
time of Mubarek’s death told the inquiry the approach of
staff was “likely at worst, to lead to young prisoner’s
self-harming or even killing themselves”.
He said he had been concerned about the “considerable”
use of control and restraint on young offenders which was used
“more than necessary”.
Clifford also highlighted failings in one unit where there was
“no guarantee” that prisoners leaving early or
returning late from court would even be fed.
Lucy Bogue, chair of the Independent Monitoring
Board described how staff saved lives “on a daily
basis” by cutting down boys who were hanging and
Bogue also told the inquiry that overcrowding had placed
“significant” strain on Feltham, with some inmates
forced to eat their meals “in close proximity” to
toilet bowls in shared cells.
Keith Denman, a principal officer at Feltham said
officers acted as though they were working in a
“pigsty” with the inmates viewed as
What next? Phase two of the inquiry
The second phase of the inquiry will now consider recommendations
to minimise the risk of attack like the one on Mubarek happening
again. This is expected to involve focus groups of ex-offenders and
others who have been closely involved in the prison system; visits
by the chair, Mr Justice Keith, and his advisers to Feltham and six
other prisons; and seminars where possible reforms will be
Mr Justice Keith will issue his final report later this year.
THE INQUIRY IN QUOTES
“Whenever you went into a cell at Feltham you’d see
graffiti like swastikas, the initials KKK and things like ‘kill all
niggers…’ the general perception in Feltham was that all whites
were racist, and the black lads didn’t like the
Keith Greenslade, a staff officer to the governor at Feltham
“A disaster waiting to
Michael Potts, a prison officer at Hindley YOI, describing Robert
“Zahid told me that he had asked to be moved from his cell.
He discussed his cell mate. I asked what he was like. Zahid said
that he was alright but later said that he was a bit weird. I asked
him what he meant and Zahid said that he was always staring at him.
Without saying anything. I recall that he mentioned that the cell
mate had RIP on his forehead. We laughed it
Tanzeel Ahmed, Zahid’s cousin, on a visit to Mubarek before
he was killed
“The F2052SH phenomena [inmates deemed at risk of
self-harm] began to appear with 10 per cent of the landing
dribbling for affection, attention and help!”
Nigel Herring, former branch chair of the Prison Officer’s
Association at Feltham writing in prison magazine Gatelodge
“When Zahid was killed…it was more than a
wake-up call. I think the question was: could we have been so
Judy Clements, the first race equality adviser to the Prison
“No such practice could survive or be kept
Nigel Herring, former branch chair of the Prison Officer’s
Association at Feltham, on the ‘Gladiator’
“’What if?’ Those were the two words
that haunted me throughout the entire period of time from when I
was told…until I am here today, ‘What if?’
‘What if that were true?’”
Duncan Keys, assistant general secretary of the Prison
Officer’s Association, on the ‘Gladiator’