‘I’m literally in the fire pit’: Man living in room where brother was restrained by police before dying in hospital

These days, Mohannad Bashir spends almost all his time staring at the same four walls.

These days, Mohannad Bashir spends almost all his time staring at the same four walls.

The small bedroom is the place where he spends up to ten hours a day working at his computer, as well as where he relaxes, switches off and sleeps at night.

It’s also the room where his younger brother Mouayed Bashir lived until his death earlier this year, and one of the last places he saw while he was alive.

Mr Bashir died on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at the Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran just a few hours after officers from Gwent Police went to his address in Maesglas, Newport following a report of concern for the Karachi-born 29-year-old’s welfare.

Newport Coroner’s Court heard back in July that on arrival at the address at around 9am that morning, Mr Bashir was “restrained and transported to hospital by ambulance”. There he was pronounced dead a short time later and his body identified by his father.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has since launched an investigation into the incident, and an inquest date has been set for next summer.

Today, Mohannad Bashir carries out the same mundane rituals, the same daily routine his brother once did, in the same room where his brother took some of his last breaths.

“I work here, I sleep here, I wake up. Every morning it’s the same routine, where I keep thinking, Mouayed had his last shower that morning, as I’m standing on the same spot as he was in the family bathroom. When I’m brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror, I’m thinking maybe Mouayed had the last time to look at himself in the mirror. When I come into the room to get ready for work, Mouayed was getting ready to meet the paramedics and the ambulance.

“I’m literally in the fire pit. It doesn’t get closer than this. It would only take a very strong person to be able to live through it.”

After his brother’s death Mohannad, 33, said it was a “no brainer” to move from London, where he had lived and worked for ten years, back to Newport to support his family.



Mohannad has moved back to Newport to support his family

He said being together had allowed the family – Mohannad, his other younger brother Mohamed, 27, and their parents – to process their loss together.

The early days were particularly difficult, he said, especially for his parents whose bedroom is right next to Mouayed’s. If they need to use the toilet, they have to pass his room on the way.

“It’s very close quarters. It’s painful, and at the start it was too much for them to pass his bedroom,” he said.

“My mum always had the routine of knocking on the door, making sure he was ok, asking did he want breakfast, what he was up to today. Just typical family chit-chat that happens every morning, afternoon, evening. It was so difficult to carry on for her. It got to a point where she just basically stood for five minutes by the door frame in silence, and you can tell she is either relieving the experience, having a moment to herself or praying for Mouayed’s soul.”

Mohannad said his mother now went through the same routine with him as she did with Mouayed.

“She still knocks in the morning and asks if I want coffee, and sometimes I tell her I’m in a meeting and ask her to come back in an hour,” he said heartily. “There’s a little bit of normality. But of course we know this is not my bedroom. It’s Mouayed’s bedroom.”



Mouayed Bashir died on Wednesday, February 17, 2021, after officers were called to his home in Newport

In the months since losing Mouayed, the main priority for Mohannad and his brother was protecting their parents.

“We do whatever it takes – take him [Mohamed] out every other evening, go away for the weekend, change the energy in the house, and look after each other,” he said.

“Because there are only four of us left. You can’t replace family no matter what. We are at the phase of acceptance. I’ve personally accepted the fact Mouayed is no longer with us and it’ll take a miracle to bring him back. There is a bit of peace with that. We have to carry on with the new normal – our version of the new normal, not the pandemic new normal.”

As well as grieving, the Bashirs have also been fighting relentlessly to leave the house they now associate with pain and tragedy. They had already been on the waiting list for several years, but have asked to be rehomed by Newport City Homes. That has yet to happen, meaning they remain stuck in the same house where the events of February 17 continue to haunt them every day.

“It feels like we are under house arrest. We are stuck in a hard place – we can’t go anywhere,” Mohannad said.

“The first couple of weeks and months were really difficult. I couldn’t sleep properly. My mood swings were all over the place, which also had an impact on the vibes and the energy in the house with the rest of the family, while we’re all still in pain about what happened.

“I’m keeping myself busy, either with work, or the campaign, or with music – there’s always something going on. As long as I’m busy, I’m good to go. The last thing I want to do is have five minutes to myself where my mind will go in some dark places.”

In one instance, Mohannad said the family were told about an available house just a few steps from the Gwent Police station in Newport.

“That was just an insult to injury,” he said. “I just asked them what were they thinking? Do they even know what this case is all about?”

On another occasion, he said they were offered a property whose garden backed right onto train tracks.

“We are all traumatised. Some of us are taking counselling and therapy sessions. I’m sometimes not in the right place and my mental health is up and down. I have some dark thoughts,” he admitted frankly.

“Putting a family that was going through so much tragedy in a house next to a train track… That’s a really bad cocktail, you’re asking for a bigger problem.”

He said the long wait showed that the “whole housing system was broken.”

“Waiting for so long and then this happens – you’d think we should be on a priority list,” he said. “Newport City Homes will say that we are, but I don’t know how urgent… I’m really losing faith in this organisation. We are fed up of sitting down and waiting.

“I see construction sites everywhere in Newport, being advertised everywhere. How many of those are going to actually be for the council? People with deep pockets will get 90-95% of the whole development, and the five per cent will be for the council.”



‘It feels like we are under house arrest. We are stuck in a hard place – we can’t go anywhere’

Newport City Homes has said it “completely understand(s) the urgent need for the Bashir family to move” and that the family “has had first refusal on every empty home we have that fits their criteria” but that they had not deemed any to meet their requirements.

As well as the search for a new home, Mohannad has also been frustrated with the slow pace of the legal process.

An IOPC spokesperson said this week that the investigation was “near conclusion” with a report now being finalised. It said any timings of when it might publish its findings “will depend on future discussion with the coroner and other interested parties involved”.

An inquest into Mr Bashir’s death opened in July and was adjourned until the week of July 11, 2022. By then, it will have been almost 18 months since Mr Bashir died.

While lengthy waits are often common with inquests in the UK, Mohanned admitted that progress had been frustratingly slow.

“Initially the report was supposed to be finalised in August. It’s November now. God know how long the decision is going to take. The legal team has been fighting to obtain the bodycam footage still, but there’s no chance of getting our hands on it yet.

“If this happened in the US, probably within a week maximum, bodycam footage would be released, it would be in the public domain.”

Citing cases such as that of Sarah Everard, whose attacker Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence just six months after her death, Mohannad said he didn’t understand why cases like his brother’s had taken so long.

“What happened to her was really bad, just shocking, disgusting, mind-blowing. They fast tracked the hell of that case. Why did they do that?” he said.

“Is it because it’s a white woman in London who has been abducted, raped and killed by a police officer in London?

“All this energy and resources to come up with an outcome. With Mouayed’s case, why has it taken so long so come up with an outcome?”



Protestors marching in Newport in May to mark 100 days since the death of Mouayed Bashir

He said the inquest process “can take forever” and that a host of recent police incidents had “put the police under a really bad spotlight.

“The way I look at it is the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Everything will come out. It’s put a bigger question on the whole system itself in the UK. Why is it like this and why does it take so long?”

Today, many of Mouayed’s clothes and other belongings remain in the bedroom his older brother now spends most of his time in. It’s a daily reminder of everything the family has lost, but also a source of comfort.

“Mouayed had a good taste in fashion. He had some things which still had the labels on them, that he never had the chance to wear,” Mohannad said.

“I’m looking at his chest of drawers and his collection of baseball caps. There’s collections of special commemorative coins too, he used to love collecting them. It might sound weird, but I hardly wear my clothes. I wear Mouayed’s, because we were basically the same size. Everywhere I go out I wear his leather jacket, to make sure he’s always with me.

“There’s a lot of his stuff here. It’s hard to get rid of.”



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Aside from his day job, Mohannad spends his free time going to the gym in the mornings and evenings, running, playing music (his band has dedicated a song on their upcoming album to Mouayed) and working on the Justice4Mouayed campaign with his brother.

He has also taken charge of corresponding with the legal team, the IOPC and getting involved in different events to spread the word about Mouayed’s case.

While he admitted it sometimes became “draining” to live and work in the room where his brother lived, he tries to switch off at night.

“I do take sleeping tablets, which does help. I never used to, but I have to now. I have energy the next morning and hustle again. Being here in the room where everything happened, it really does give me that fire and determination to keep fighting and make this work.”

Since kicking off in March, the Justice4Mouayed campaign has since raised over £6,000 to help the family’s legal case.

In October, Mohannad spoke in front of hundreds of people in London, close to Downing Street, during a march to remember those who died in state custody, while last weekend he was a guest speaker at the COP26 march in Cardiff.

Earlier this month the family donated some of Mouayed’s unworn shoes and clothes to The Fire Fighters Charity, something Mohannad said was symbolic of his late brother’s kindness and generosity.

“Mouayed was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, he had the determination that runs in the family,” he said fondly.

“He was the kind of person who would give the last penny in his pocket if you needed it. His attitude was that tomorrow would be a better day. He would be very proud, and I want to continue that legacy.”



‘I would sell my soul to the devil to have my brother back’

August this year would have seen all three brothers celebrate their birthdays. Instead, it passed quietly and without fanfare.

“All the boys in the family are born in August,” Mohannad said. “So this year, August was tough. We didn’t bother celebrating. I said this year doesn’t count. I didn’t feel like it.

“I mean it when I say I would sell my soul to the devil to have my brother back. That’s now much Mouayed means to me and the rest of my family.”

I ask if Mouayed followed the news before his death, and what he made of events such as that of George Floyd, the 46-year-old man who was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020?

“It’s interesting you mention that,” Mohannad said. “Mouayed at the time, when everything went viral and nobody could believe what was happening, he looked at my younger brother and said ‘you know what, we’re so lucky this never happens here in the UK’. Those were his words.”

An IOPC spokesperson said: “Our thorough, independent investigation into the death of Mouayed Bashir is near conclusion with an investigation report now being finalised.

“We have reviewed a range of evidence gathered including detailed accounts from the officers involved, accounts from family members, police body worn video, radio transmissions and call logs. We have continued to update Mr Bashir’s family, the coroner and Gwent Police throughout the course of the investigation.

“Because of future inquest proceedings we have had to consult with the coroner over enabling the family to view relevant body worn video footage. We hope to make arrangements with the family for them to do so soon. The timing of publication of our conclusions will depend on future discussion with the coroner and other interested parties involved.”

A spokesperson for Gwent Police said the force was unable to comment while the IOPC investigation was ongoing.

Sonia Furzland, Executive Director of Operations at Newport City Homes, said: “We completely understand the urgent need for the Bashir family to move following the tragic death of their son, and we have been working closely with them to find a home that meets their needs and aspirations.

“Over the past seven months, the Bashir family has had first refusal on every empty home we have that fits their criteria. We’ve also worked with another local housing association to offer them a new build home in a neighbouring area. Unfortunately, the family didn’t feel these homes met their requirements.

“We are doing all that we can to support the Bashir family and will continue to help them to move out of their current home.”

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