Indian restaurant owner charged with customer allergy death
The owner of a chain of award-winning Indian restaurants has been charged with the manslaughter of a customer who died following a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
A man with a severe peanut allergy died after eating a curry from a restaurant whose owner repeatedly ignored warnings that he could be putting customers' lives at risk, a court has heard.
Paul Wilson, 38, was found dead at his home in Helperby, North Yorkshire, after buying a takeaway containing peanuts from the Indian Garden restaurant owned by Mohammed Khalique Zaman in January 2014, Teesside Crown Court was told.
Mr Zaman has run several restaurants across North Yorkshire and York for more than 25 years, including the Jaipur Spice chain, which won the Best In Yorkshire award at the Bangladeshi Catering Association Awards in 2012 and 2013.
Zaman, 53, has gone on trial accused of Mr Wilson's manslaughter after he took a "reckless and cavalier attitude to risk" and "put profit before safety" at the restaurants he owned, the jury heard.
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, told the court Zaman had swapped from using almond powder to the cheaper groundnut powder, containing peanuts, in June 2013 but, despite a warning from his supplier, did not warn customers that he was using peanut ingredients.
Just weeks before Mr Wilson died, a 17-year-old girl was treated in hospital for a reaction caused by a peanut allergy after eating a curry from another restaurant owned by Zaman, the court heard.
She was assured by staff that the meal would not contain peanuts, the jury was told.
Mr Wright said that a week before Mr Wilson's death, a trading standards officer found evidence of peanuts in a meal she had been told was peanut-free and discovered a box labelled blanched ground peanut in the kitchen of Zaman's Jaipur Spice restaurant in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.
She told staff that customers in all of Zaman's restaurants must be informed they were using peanuts, the court heard.
Mr Wright said that, on the night of his death on January 30 2014, Mr Wilson told staff at the Indian Garden restaurant, in Easingwold, that his meal must be nut-free.
He said the restaurant had written "no nuts" on his order and on the lid of his curry.
Mr Wright said: "Mohammed Zaman received numerous warnings that he was putting his customers' health, and potentially their lives, at risk.
"Tragically for Paul Wilson, Mohammed Zaman took none of those opportunities and ignored all of the warnings he was given.
"His was a reckless and cavalier attitude to risk and one that we, the prosecution, would describe as grossly negligent."
Mr Wright added: "Time and again he ignored the danger and did not protect his customers.
"The evidence will establish that Mohammed Zaman put profit before safety and that he cut corners at every turn."
Zaman, from Huntington, York, denies manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and six food safety offences. The trial continues.
Mr Wright said police and trading standards launched an investigation following Mr Wilson's death.
The prosecutor said groundnut powder was found in the kitchen of the Indian Garden and had contaminated other ingredients.
The court heard that, after requests from trading standards, signs were displayed in Zaman's restaurants stating that meals could not be guaranteed nut-free.
But Mr Wright said a test purchaser went to the Indian Garden the day after Mr Wilson's death and was assured by a staff member that they could buy a nut-free curry.
On the same day, Zaman rang his supplier and asked to swap his remaining groundnut powder for almond, the court heard.
Mr Wright said: "At last, Mohammed Zaman did something responsible to protect his customers. But it was too little and for Paul Wilson it was tragically too late."
Mr Wright said Zaman blamed others when he was interviewed by police and "took no personal responsibility".
Following the prosecution's opening, defence barrister Alistair Webster QC outlined to the jurors the issues they would have to address in the case.