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Monday, 23 May 2016
Peanut curry death: Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman jailed
In what is thought to be a landmark trial, Zaman, of Aylesham Court, Huntington, denied he was responsible but a jury was told he switched almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix, which contained peanuts.
Mr Wilson, a bar manager from Helperby, North Yorkshire, specified "no nuts" when he ordered a chicken tikka masala - an instruction which was written on his order and on the lid of his takeaway, the court heard.
He died three weeks after a different customer with a peanut allergy bought a meal from one of Mr Zaman's six restaurants and had a reaction requiring hospital treatment.
The restaurateur had a "reckless and cavalier attitude to risk" and "put profit before safety" at all his outlets, the jury was told.
Zaman was almost £300,000 in debt and cut costs by using the cheaper nut powder and by employing untrained, illegal workers, the court heard.
Sentencing him, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said Zaman had remained "in complete and utter denial" and ignored warnings from officials after 17-year-old Ruby Scott suffered a reaction to a curry, three weeks before Mr Wilson's death.
He said he had thrown away his successful business and property portfolio worth £2m "in pursuit of profit".
"You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual", said the judge.
"Paul Wilson was in the prime of his life.
"He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man."
But the judge acknowledged Zaman was of "good character" and the sentence would have an impact on his wife and four children.
In a statement read out in court, Mr Wilson's parents, Margaret and Keith, from Sheffield, said they felt "numb, shock and disbelief" over their son's death.
"I feel robbed that I won't share the rest of my life with Paul"," Keith Wilson said.
Mrs Wilson said her son was "meticulous" about dealing with peanuts after a reaction to a chocolate bar at the age of seven.
She said the smell of peanuts, or accidentally drinking from the same glass as someone who was eating them, could trigger a reaction.
Danny Savage, North of England correspondent
Paul Wilson asked for a nut-free takeaway and tried to make himself sick when he realised he hadn't got what he ordered.
But it was too late. The anaphylactic shock killed him.
The restaurateur tried to blame everyone else but himself. Mohammed Zaman's drive to cut costs hospitalised one customer and killed another.
It's taken this case to emphasise just how serious a peanut allergy can be. Mistakes can be fatal.
De Insp Shaun Page said Mr Wilson's death was "totally avoidable" and Zaman's "lack of remorse" had been striking.
"And trying to distance himself from any involvement in his death. That had struck me through this investigation. His lack of compassion and understanding about that he's actually done," he said.
He said the case was thought to be a legal first, setting a precedent for the food industry.
Zaman claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff, telling jurors he was not on the premises when the curry was ordered.
Until his conviction, the restaurateur had "the immigrant story to which everyone should aspire", his barrister Alistair Webster QC had said in court.
Zaman was born in Bangladesh and came to the UK aged 15. He started working for his uncle in the restaurant business, finally owning six himself in York and North Yorkshire.
His restaurants won local business honours and acclaim from the British Catering Association and the British Curry Awards, the jury heard.
The father-of-four was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and six food safety offences. He was cleared of a charge of perverting the course of justice.