Israr Ellahi death: Dad was a 'willing participant' in fight which cost him his life
On one night in Tunstall, over the course of just one hour, a series of drunken, violent incidents ultimately resulted in one man losing his life. Reporter Phil Corrigan followed the inquest of Israr Ellahi.
ON FRIDAY June 18, 2010, England had been playing Algeria in the World Cup, and in Tunstall, as throughout the country, the booze was flowing freely.
Despite the result being a disappointing 0-0 draw, there was a party atmosphere throughout the town, on what was a balmy summer's evening.
But then between the hours of 10pm and 11pm, a string of violent crimes, most of them fuelled by alcohol, eventually culminated in 30-year-old mechanic Israr Ellahi suffering serious head injuries during a street brawl.
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Danny Munro punched Mr Ellahi in the face, causing him to fall to the ground, where he fractured his skull.
He would die in hospital 13 days later, sparking recriminations from Tunstall's Asian community and an IPCC investigation into the police's handling of the incident.
A charge of manslaughter brought against Munro was dropped following the unrelated death of a key witness.
This left members of the Asian community, including Mr Ellahi's family, angry that justice had not been done.
But the full story of the events leading up to Mr Ellahi's death has only now been revealed at the father-of-three's long-awaited inquest.
The hearing heard about a series of violent incidents, including assaults and a hit-and-run, which North Staffordshire Coroner Ian Smith condemned as "stupid drunken criminality".
Mr Smith ruled Mr Ellahi, who he said was "no stranger" to the criminal courts himself, had been a "willing participant" in the brawl which cost him his life.
At around 10pm, Mr Ellahi had been drinking at the Sneyd Arms Hotel in Tower Square, when he became involved in the first violent incident.
Mr Ellahi, of Stanley Street, Tunstall, shouted racist insults at the England fans and argued with bar staff, which resulted in him being punched by customer Karl Pearce. He was ejected from the pub, and his confrontation with Pearce continued outside. Police were called, but Mr Ellahi was reluctant to give officers much information.
A short time later, at the Tiger Bite takeaway in Roundwell Street, a group of youths, including Munro, were involved in a violent encounter.
Witnesses reported seeing the youths assaulting a member of staff.
Mr Smith said: "This incident did not involve Mr Ellahi at all. But it show that Danny Munro was prepared to engage in unwarranted violence."
Police were again called to the scene, but the youths had already fled.
Just a short distance away, two other youths, Scott Belcher and Christopher Leadbetter, were the victims of one of the night's more inexplicable acts of violence. A silver Ford Mondeo pulled up alongside them, and the driver accused Mr Belcher of saying something to him.
The driver, described as white and blond by witnesses, then got out of the Mondeo and assaulted Mr Belcher, while his passenger attacked Mr Leadbetter. The two men got back into the car and drove off.
Soon after this, the same Mondeo was involved in a second incident. By this point a group of up to 20 youths, along with Mr Ellahi, had gathered in Roundwell Street.
The Mondeo was deliberately driven at the group, hitting at least one youth, Lewis Gilpin, on the leg. It then raced away from the scene.
Mr Smith said: "Fortunately Mr Gilpin was not badly hurt. But this was another violent act which could so easily have gone badly wrong."
Passions were now running very high, with both Munro and Gilpin seen arguing with Mr Ellahi, who had two children with Gilpin's sister.
The rising tensions then erupted with the arrival of Mr Ellahi's brother Isbar and their friend Shafiq Mohammed.
A street brawl broke out involving the three Asian men and a number of white youths.
The inquest heard a number of differing accounts of the fight.
While memories may be less than perfect after two-and-a-half years, Mr Smith said some witnesses had been "unreliable and unconvincing".
He rejected the account given by Roundwell Street resident Asif Hussain, who claimed to have seen a group of white youths kicking and stamping on Mr Ellahi's head.
Two witnesses – Roundwell Street resident Tracey Marsden and Gilpin's then-girlfriend Amanda Dodd – said Munro had punched Mr Ellahi after being attacked by the Asian men.
Both women reported seeing Mr Ellahi's head bounce off the road.
This was the version of events Mr Smith found to be true, and he said the fight could well have ended with Munro receiving a fatal injury rather than Mr Ellahi.
Mr Ellahi had sustained two fractures to the skull, and the resultant injury to the brain left him requiring a cocktail of anaesthetic drugs.
This led to Mr Ellahi suffering multiple organ failure.
Munro, Gilpin, Isbar Ellahi, Mohammed and two other youths were sentenced to a total of 16-and-a-half years for their part in the disturbance. Ellahi and Mohammed were later released.
The unrelated death of Mrs Marsden meant that a charge of manslaughter brought against Munro was dropped.