DCSIMG

Justice for Kriss Donald held hostage by the law

SHELTERING against the raw March wind beneath his flimsy tracksuit top, Kriss Donald never stood a chance as he was snatched off a Glasgow street by his kidnappers and violently bundled into the back of a car as he made his way home.

Slightly built and standing barely 5ft 4in tall, the 15-year-old would have been unable to put up much resistance as he was pinned down in the back seat by his tormentors, who would later hold him against his will before killing him and dumping his battered and bruised body in a bleak patch of wasteland in the east end of the city.

When the police discovered the corpse of the youngster on 16 March this year, 24 hours after he was reported as missing from his home in the Pollokshields area of the city, officers attending the scene, an area littered with broken Buckfast bottles and burnt-out cars, said it would be hard to imagine a more dismal resting place for the body of a young man.

As details of the murder emerged, racial tensions in the south side of Glasgow, an area which houses Scotland’s biggest Asian population, quickly rose as the teenager’s death was capitalised on by those seeking to make political mileage from the killing.

The death of a white schoolboy at the hands of an Asian gang was a gift for the British National Party who visited the area after the murder, drawing inevitable comparisons between Pollokshields and the ethnically-mixed areas of Oldham and Bradford where the party had made political gains by winning seats in local authority elections.

Not surprisingly, Mohammad Sarwar, the Labour MP for the area, condemned the BNP’s move as incendiary.

The murder of Kriss Donald was not the first time the death of a schoolboy in the south side of Glasgow had split white and Asian communities in the city. In February 1998, Imran Khan, another 15-year-old, died in Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary after he was stabbed during pitched battles between Asian and white youths in Pollokshields.

In the immediate aftermath of the Kriss Donald murder, Strathclyde Police knew they had an unenviable task on their hands. In Pollokshields, where 40 per cent of the 9,000 residents are from ethnic minority backgrounds, mostly Pakistani, the death could have caused serious problems among local gangs.

The racial mix in the south side of Glasgow was perhaps best reflected at Kriss’s school, Bellahouston Academy, where a third of pupils have an ethnic minority background.

As the police began their investigation, senior officers trebled patrols in the area, sending officers out in police vans, on bicycles and horseback - insisting that the highly visible presence was to offer reassurance, presumably in case any white youths or gangs tried a retaliatory strike.

Strathclyde’s Chief Constable also spoke of the importance of a positive and constructive reaction to the investigation by the local community.

But as the inquiries continued, officers from Strathclyde Police quickly expressed concerns that the reaction from the local community had been muted, and not enough information about the incident had been forthcoming from the public.

As the inquiry intensified, dozens of plain-clothed and uniformed officers from the Strathclyde force’s G Division stopped members of the public and motorists at Kenmure Street, in Pollokshields, where Kriss was last seen alive.

Inquiries also went on in Glasgow’s east end, where his body was dumped, and in Granby Lane, in the Hillhead area, where a Mercedes car believed to have been used in the abduction was found abandoned after being set on fire.

The police posted letters to residents in all three areas, appealing for them to come forward if they had information about the killing.

Kriss Donald’s mother, Angela, then made an impassioned plea to find her son’s killers, asking for urgent help in tracing "five men, full of hate" who murdered Kriss.

In a statement she appealed for the public to come forward and help the police.

She said: "I would urge the public not to target the Asian community because of his death. Kriss’s life and short time in our world will be for nothing if those responsible are not caught and punished for the horror they have brought to my family."

Finally, on 5 April, two Asian men, Daanish Zahid and Zahid Mohammed, both 20, appeared in court charged with the murder and abduction of the 15-year-old.

Zahid and Mohammed, both of Pollokshields, made no plea or declaration during a private hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court, and were remanded in custody pending further inquiries.

A warrant was then issued for the arrest of a third man, 27-year-old Imran Shahid, in connection with the incident, and a further two suspects in the killing.

By June, Strathclyde Police confirmed that warrants had been served for the arrest of the three other suspects in the killing but admitted that as no extradition treaty existed with Pakistan, the men may never be brought to justice.

However, the Home Office insisted that the absence of formal arrangements did not preclude extradition.

According to retired Edinburgh University Professor Robert Black, who drew up the extradition plan for the Lockerbie bombing suspects, despite the lack of a treaty between Britain and Libya, it would have been possible for a one-off arrangement to be made for the return of the three suspects. But he conceded that the current political climate in the area could make such an agreement extremely difficult.

Prof Black said: "Extradition treaties set out principles to be applied between countries, and the fact there is no treaty does not mean suspects cannot be brought back."

UK authorities could simply ask, via political and diplomatic channels, for the trio’s return, he added. However, there were obvious difficulties, according to Prof Black.

He said: "This is a very difficult case, and extradition is by no means a certainty. The suspects in this case are Muslim, and there is considerable anti-British and American feeling in Pakistan over Iraq and other things. It may be that Pakistan feels politically that it cannot hand them over."

Iain Scobie, of the department of international law at Glasgow University, also expressed concerns over the case as Pakistan does not have to recognise arrest warrants issued in Scotland.

With the fate of the men accused of the murder still mired in bureaucratic red tape, the memory of Kriss Donald’s murder continues to linger.

For many weeks after the killing, locals were confronted with a constant reminder of the tragedy. The spot where Kriss was snatched was turned into a shrine by his schoolfriends, who hung Rangers strips and Irish tricolours on the green railings of the Kingston Bowling Club, the wall of which was scrawled with crude felt-pen graffiti obituaries.

During his funeral on 30 April, more than 200 mourners, led by his mother, paid tribute to the schoolboy at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pollok, Glasgow.

Members of the congregation sobbed as a tribute from Samantha, Kriss’s 17-year-old sister, was read out.

It read: "Tragic is too soft a word to describe what happened to him. Kriss was not perfect but he did not have enemies or grudges.

"As we say goodbye to him, I feel the need to let him know that there will always be a place in our hearts for him. Goodbye, beautiful angel. You will always be loved."

Kriss’s family and the wider Asian community in the south side of Glasgow will be hoping that, perhaps against the odds, the suspects will face trial sooner rather than later.

 
 
 

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