Saturday, 5 May 2012


This article appears on the front page of today's Leicester Mercury:

Voices told me to burn the mosque, man tells Leicester Crown Court
A mentally-ill man set fire to a mosque after voices in his head told him there were extremists inside and that they were out to get him.
Dozens of worshippers fled in panic when curtains and soft furnishings caught fire, causing rooms to fill with smoke.
Saleebaan Sheikh-Omar had ignited petrol he had spread around the mosque in St Matthew's, Leicester.
Sheikh-Omar admitted arson being reckless as to whether lives would be endangered in the incident on June 21, 2011.
Leicester Crown Court was told he took a can of petrol in a plastic bag after the voices told him members of al-Qaeda and al-Shabab – an insurgent group in Somalia – were in Masjid Al Furqan Mosque, in Kamloops Crescent.
He believed they were out to get him.
James Varley, prosecuting, said Sheikh-Omar arrived at 1.30pm as prayers were finishing. More than 50 people were in the mosque.
He said: "The defendant told some people to leave and is seen on CCTV pouring petrol quite liberally in three locations, then setting fire to furnishing and curtains.
"You can see people running out in panic. Some tried to restrain him and he threw petrol towards them before continuing his fire-raising.
"He then went to a police station and surrendered himself."
No one was hurt and no estimate of the cost of damage caused was given.
Sheikh-Omar, of Claremont Street, off Loughborough Road, Leicester, was placed on a hospital order under section 41 of the Mental Health Act, to be detained indefinitely.
He will be treated at Leicester's medium-secure psychiatric hospital, Arnold Lodge.
Dr Nicholas Taylor, consultant psychiatrist at the hospital, said the defendant had a history of auditory hallucinations.
Sheikh-Omar's schizophrenia was said to have been exacerbated by long-term use of the herbal stimulant khat.
But he was making progress on anti-psychotic drugs, the court was told.
James House, mitigating, said the defendant came to the UK from war-torn Somalia.
Judge Philip Head said: "Anyone who suffers from a mental disorder of this degree is entitled to the greatest sympathy.
"He heard voices and suffered delusions which caused him to buy a can of petrol and take it, at prayer time, to the mosque."
He said the defendant's happy upbringing in Somalia was brought to a brutal end by the onset of civil war.
Sheikh-Omar was shot and some relatives were killed, leaving him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Head said: "I've no doubt he had a predisposition to schizophrenia and, unfortunately, he was a prolific user of khat.
"I'm satisfied there is treatment which will assist in improving, or fully remitting, his condition."
Sheikh-Omar's release would have to be approved by a mental health tribunal.

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