Handsworth Riots 25 years on: The brothers who died protecting their Post Office
Sep 10 2010 By Anuji Varma
It was the dramatic call that police were unable to answer as they struggled to contain rioters in Birmingham.
Kassamali, 38, and Amirali Moledina, 44, desperately tried to protect their Post Office in Lozells Road, but their pleas for help were never acted upon.
The terrified brothers became trapped in a storeroom above the blazing shop and were unable to escape because of security bars on the windows. And as the flames became more fierce, the brothers perished, trapped and terrified after four frantic 999 calls.
The men screamed down the phone: “They are smashing their way in – they are going to kill us.”
For the family of the Moledina brothers, the events of that fateful night are still too painful to talk about.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, Kassamali’s wife Yasmin, who still lives in the family home they once shared in Hall Green, said: “We can never forget what happened that night and it’s still clear in our minds.
“It was awful what we went through and it is very upsetting to think about it again. My husband’s mother is still alive and it obviously really affects her.”
Months after the tragedy, transcripts of the brothers’ calls for help were released.
At 8.58pm on September 9, the first dramatic plea was heard: “They are smashing their way in – they are going to kill us.”
Then at 9.36pm the final call came through: “Please come now, they are in the shop trying to kill us. Please...”
Shopkeepers at the time were devastated at the news of the brothers’ deaths.
“We knew them and they were wonderful,” recalled Fazal Kapasi, who runs Jivaji Auto Factors. “Everyone was really upset when we found out what had happened that night. It was incredibly sad. The irony was that there was another set of brothers fending off rioters at their grocery shop just two doors away and they survived. There was also a police van full of officers in their gear outside the Post Office, but they couldn’t save the brothers.”
Mr Kapasi, whose shop neighboured the Post Office before it was also burned down in the attacks, added: “The Moledina brothers had a huge customer base coming into their shop, but they knew every one of them by name.
“They were the nicest family you could have known. They would always talk to their customers and were extremely well-known in the community.
“Their deaths were the biggest tragedy of the riots in 1985. They didn’t deserve to die.”
Two men were charged with the manslaughter of the brothers. But those charges against Mark Barrett and Samuel Murrain were dropped after both admitted arson, being reckless as to whether lives would be endangered.
At the time the court heard that it would have been difficult to prove it was the fires that Barrett and Murrain started which led to the deaths of the brothers. Barratt, 22 at the time, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years jail, whilst Murrain, then 18, was given four years youth custody.