A BRITISH National Party member has been jailed for five years for a string of racist attacks on Asian families in a year-long terror campaign.
Former Territorial Army soldier Terry Collins, 27, who was a sheet metal worker for Hotchkiss Ductwork, on Station Road Industrial Estate, Hailsham, hurled fireworks through letterboxes of his victims’ homes and smashed their windows with stones.
He also used a hammer to smash their car windows and a Stanley knife to slash their tyres, causing more than 4,000 worth of damage and forcing one family to flee their home.
Collins, who targeted Asian families living near him in Seaside, repeatedly sent take-always to his victims’ homes to ‘wind them up.’
Police launched an operation the size of a murder inquiry and made more than 600 house-to-house inquiries in a bid to catch him.
Officers who were lying in wait outside the Royal Parade home of one of Collins’ targets eventually caught him red-handed as he threw a lump of concrete through the window.
Following his arrest in possession of a lock-knife, officers found fireworks and paint in Collins flat identical to those used in the attacks.
They also found bullets which he stole from the army and a BNP magazine and three medium-sized pebbles in his car.
Lewes Crown Court heard how he had told a colleague: “Vote for BNP. Blair is too soft.’
Prosecutor Stephen Shay told the court, ‘Between September, 2003, and November, 2004, three ethnic minority families in Eastbourne were subjected to a series of racially-motivated crimes.
‘These crimes mainly but not always involved criminal damage. From the outset the motive for the offences was extreme right wing political views that he held.
‘In the most serious incident, shortly after midnight on March 27, 2004, Ali Rostam heard shattering glass downstairs at his home in Eshton Road where he lives with his three children. He was upstairs in bed.
‘When he went to inspect he could smell burning coming from the hallway and was aware of his house filling with smoke.
‘The porch carpet was burning and a large brick with a firework attached was on the floor alongside the shattered glass.
‘Mr Rostam was able to put the fire out by stamping on the carpet. His family were understandable deeply distressed by this incident.
‘Afterwards they were re-housed and there were no further attacks on the property.’
The court heard how he also also attacked the homes and cars of newsagent Praful Patel in Seaside and Ajmul Owasil in Royal Parade.
Sheet metal worker Collins, of Eshton Road, pleaded guilty to arson and racially-aggravated harassment and criminal damage.
He also admitted possession of ammunition and a bladed article and asked for 11 further offences or racially-aggravated criminal damage to be taken into account.
He was questioned for five days and told police in interview he never intended to hurt anyone and only wanted to intimidate his victims.
He said he was driven to his victims’ homes by an accomplice he refused to name and was drunk when he committed the offences.
He said he attacked his victims’ property because he thought they were asylum seekers and immigrants.
The court heard he has a previous conviction for a drunken assault on one of his victims, Mr Patel.
Julian Dale, defending, told the court Collins joined the BNP two years ago after he and a friend were attacked by an gang of youths from an ethnic minority in Manchester.
He said, ‘That appears to have been the spur which put him in the sphere of the BNP. He was specifically targeted by one or two very forceful and extreme individuals.
‘He was subjected to a brain-washing process and was exposed to extreme far right propaganda and extremely far right documentaries.
‘Pressure was put on him to participate in these offences and even more extreme offences but he did not do so.
‘It was only once he was arrested that he had a chance to reflect and realise just how far he had slipped under the influence of certain individuals and how disgraceful he had behaved.
‘He has shown considerable remorse and has sought to make apologies through the officers in the case to the families he has distressed so much.
‘He has completely turned his back on both individuals and the organisations that led him to commit these crimes. He does not pose a continuing risk.”
Afterwards, Farida Owasil, 33, told how she came under attack at the home she shares with husband Ajmul, 43, daughter Salwa, aged six and son Ashraf, aged two.
The first attack came when a rock came through their living room window and they went outside the house to find their car had been vandalised.
After the first incident the couple’s home was targeted by Collins for repeated attacks.
Farida said, ‘We have no idea why he has picked us. We do not know him and can only presume that he saw us go in and out of our house.
‘We were just watching television when we heard the whole of the window pane smash. Our car was also attacked. Two tyres were slashed, the side mirror was broken and it was spray painted.
‘We were attacked about another six or seven times. He would always strike at around midnight.’
Farida shares the home with her brother-in-law Ahmed, 48, his wife Dawn, 44, and the couple’s two children. The four adults in the house run a nearby nursing home.
She said, ‘By the end of this we were not comfortable living in the house. It really put us in fear not knowing what was going to happen next.
‘The attacks were getting worse and worse. He is a dangerous man.
‘You feel you are being targeted because of the colour of your skin. We have lived in Eastbourne for 15 years and never had a problem with racism before.’
Mr Patel, 55, and wife Minaxi, 50, also came under attack at their shop and four-bedroom home.
Fireworks were hurled through the home they share with son Bhavik, 9, and daughters Bhumika, 24, Hena, 22, and Herkia, 20.
Their car and house windows were also smashed and tyres.
Mrs Patel said, ‘He made my family’s lives hell. Every night my son wakes up and comes into my room because he fears this man is going to kill us.
‘I fear it as well because the police told us he had live ammunition. I think his intention was to kill us. He could have blown us up.
‘If he comes out is he going to do the same? He is a danger to the public. I still have nightmares because I hear a noise and I think he is back again. It gave us peace of mind when he was arrested. My neighbours didn’t like what was happening. They were really annoyed because we are nice people.’
Bhavik said, ‘It upset me because all my stuff is by the window and I was cold with the window broken. Nobody else is going to bang the window now. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because of the noise. I often sleep downstairs.’