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Refugee sentenced for manslaughter of veteran, 86, who ‘racially insulted him’

Frank Fishwick, who admitted saying “something I shouldn’t”, died in hospital the day after being punched by Syrian teenager Mohammed Al Araaj.

16 March 2022

A Syrian refugee who punched an 86-year-old veteran after being subjected to racist insults has been sentenced to four years in a young offenders’ institution for manslaughter.

Frank Fishwick died in hospital after being hit by Mohammed Al Araaj during a row with the teenager and his friends outside his home in Preston, Lancashire.

Al Araaj, 19, who came to the UK as a refugee at 15, was one of four students smoking cannabis in a stairwell on the Paddock estate on the afternoon of September 10 last year, Preston Crown Court was told on Wednesday.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said Mr Fishwick, who he called a “feisty older man”, confronted the group, first through his window and then by going out to them.

In police body-worn camera footage shown to the court, Mr Fishwick was seen in his flat, holding his bloody nose and telling an officer he asked the group to move but they had refused.

One of the defendant’s friends taunted the pensioner, who served in the Royal Engineers, and called him an old man with no teeth, the court was told.

Mr Fishwick was said to have replied: “Come here and I’ll give you no teeth.”

The grandfather admitted directing racist insults at Al Araaj, telling officers: “I will admit I said something that I shouldn’t do.”

Mr McEntee said: “He used comments and admitted language which shouldn’t really see the light of day nowadays.”

Honorary recorder of Preston, Judge Robert Altham, told the court: “They probably never should have seen the light of day.”

Sentencing, the judge said: “The comments made by Mr Fishwick do form part of the background in this case, however even the making of those comments cannot begin to excuse the defendant, a young man, punching an 86-year-old man in the face.”

Mr Fishwick initially refused medical treatment but called for an ambulance that evening, when his nose continued to bleed, and was taken to hospital, the court was told.

He had suffered a number of breaks to his nose and a bleed on the brain, Mr McEntree said.

He died the next day.

Al Araaj was arrested on September 12 and initially claimed Mr Fishwick kicked him and threatened him with a knife, Mr McEntee said.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter at a hearing in December.

In a statement, Mr Fishwick’s daughter, Judith Taylor Fishwick, who lives in America, said her relative’s lives were “turned upside down” by the attack.

Her father was taken from his loved ones by a “cruel act of violence”, she added.

Chris Hudson, defending, said Al Araaj was born in Syria and saw his sister killed by a fighter jet’s bullet, which came through their bedroom wall.

He said: “He has had a terrible upbringing.”

Al Araaj moved to Blackpool as a refugee and was able to finish his GCSEs despite experiencing racism at school, Mr Hudson said.

He had also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the court was told.

Mr Hudson said: “He is an intrinsically decent young man.”

Judge Altham said: “Whilst this must be a sentence of some considerable length, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors.”

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