Mohammed Abbkr set alight two elderly worshippers who were leaving their mosques

A man has received an indefinite hospital order for setting fire to two elderly worshippers who had just left mosques in London and Birmingham.

Mohammed Abbkr targeted Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, in separate incidents last year. He used a lighter and petrol in a water bottle to set fire to them on February 27 and March 20 respectively.

Abbkr, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, warned his first victim, “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me.” Despite his asylum status from Sudan in 2017, Abbkr was convicted of attempted murder of both victims after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

The 29-year-old, who came to the UK from Sudan in 2017 seeking asylum and was granted leave to remain two years later, was convicted of two counts of attempted murder by majority 11-1 verdicts after a two-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

The Judge sentencing Abbkr, noted the similarity of the attacks and his belief that the victims were possessed. He acknowledged Abbkr’s severe mental illness during the offenses. Abbkr, treated at Ashworth high security hospital, attended the proceedings via video link.

Judge Melbourne Inman KC said: “The nature of each attack was identical. You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight – the attacks were horrific.”

“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random,” the judge added. “You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.

“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offences at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”

CCTV footage of both attacks was shown to jurors during the trial. Prosecutor Nicholas de la Poer KC told the jury that Abbkr had attended prayers at the West Ealing Islamic Centre before following Mr Odowa from the entrance door.

Prosecutor Nicholas de la Poer KC told the jury that Abbkr had attended prayers at the West Ealing Islamic Centre before following Mr Odowa from the entrance door.

Mr de la Poer added: “There followed a conversation during which the defendant insisted that Mr Odowa knew him. Mr Odowa told the defendant that he did not.

“Having sprayed Mr Odowa with petrol, the defendant drew out a lighter, struck the lighter, held it to Mr Odowa’s neck and ignited the petrol.”

Abbkr walked away from the scene and despite media appeals was only tracked down a day after attacking Mr Rayaz, who was a regular worshipper at Birmingham’s Dudley Road Mosque.

Mr Rayaz was followed for more than five minutes after leaving the mosque’s prayer hall, with CCTV footage showing Abbkr within feet of him as they passed a Caribbean food store on Dudley Road.

Abbkr was seen to take a clear plastic bottle from a rucksack, approach Mr Rayaz, placed a hand on his shoulder and ask him if he spoke Arabic.

Mr de la Poer told the jury: “The defendant then sprayed Mr Rayaz with the petrol. Using a lighter, the defendant set fire to the petrol. Mr Rayaz was engulfed in flame.”

The court was told that, as the initial flare of the fire began to diminish, the defendant threw more petrol from his bottle on to the flames and they “grew in size and intensity once again”.

In a statement issued by West Midlands, Mohammed Ayaz, the eldest son of Mr Rayaz, said: “Seeing my father on the evening of 20th March in the burnt state he was in was just an awful and unbearable thing to see.

“No words can describe that moment the emotions which I was feeling, I felt so helpless and weak, no son or daughter should see their father or mother in that state.”

The court heard that Abbkr cannot be released or transferred to a less secure unit without permission from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).