10 Aug 2011

Three killed in Birmingham ‘hit and run’ attack

Home Affairs Correspondent

Tension is high in Birmingham following the death of three men struck by a car while protecting local businesses. Channel 4 News Midlands Correspondent Darshna Soni describes the mood in the city.

Video: Relatives and friends of the three men who died in an apparent hit and run attack in Birmingham describe their feelings outside the hospital, which was being guarded by riot police.

The mood has turned ugly in some parts of Birmingham. We were filming until the early hours of the morning and what we witnessed is deeply concerning. There is a real fear that the events of last night have stirred racial tensions in this city between some Asian and black communities. There is talk of retaliation and further violence.

When looters went on the rampage on Monday night, dozens of local businesses were attacked. Family businesses that had taken years to establish were ransacked in hours. Yesterday, many of the owners told me they weren’t going to allow it to happen again.

In areas like the Soho Road in Handsworth, they started closing early. “We don’t trust the police to be able to look after us,” one man said. “So we’re going to do it ourselves.”

Some resorted to extreme measures – I interviewed one man who had brought two fierce looking bull mastiff dogs to his shop to deter any looters.

Tensions in Birmingham

I interviewed a group of Sikh volunteers who had come to stand guard outside their Gurdwara temple. They were friendly and made us cups of tea. One university student told me he was there because of his faith.

“Our holy book is kept in the temple, it is a sacred place. My faith is extremely important to me, and for me, protecting my place of worship is part of my faith.” They had come to the temple because they had heard rumours it was going to be attacked.

One man showed me a car which had had its window smashed in.

“Four of our brothers from the temple were travelling in it, when a gang of young black guys threw a brick at the window and tried to pour petrol on it. They were absolutely terrified.”

Rumours started to spread, on Twitter, on websites and messenger. We got a message that “a blud has been shot in Smethwick”.

When we drove to the area, we found an awful scene. A young black man was lying on the pavement with serious injuries. The police had cordoned off the area around him and were waiting for an ambulance to arrive. The police would not release details of what had happened, but that did not stop the rumours.

Several people told me that a convoy of black men in cars had driven past one of the temples and taunted a group of Asian men. A small group had retaliated, dragging one out of his car and beating him up.

Angry scenes at Birmingham's City hospital after 3 hit and run deaths

Within minutes messages were being posted about another attack. “Is it true two brothers have been killed?”

We drove to Birmingham’s City Hospital in Winsom Green. Outside the hospital, we found riot police guarding the entrance.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” one nurse told me.

A group of Muslims had gathered. Some were crying. Others were praying. They were there to pay their respects.

An hour earlier, three young men from their community had been guarding a restaurant nearby. It’s claimed that two cars approached them and deliberately ran them over. The police were treating the incident as murder.

“We were attacked and yet the police are here at the hospital as if we were the ones who did the violence. They’re only making the situation worse,” one relative told me.

“This situation is out of control now,” said another man.

“People here are angry. There’s going to be more violence, people were want revenge for this. They want somebody to pay.”

Follow Darshna Soni on Twitter: @darshnasoni