Indian restaurant owner accused of killing customer with curry

By Martin Evans

Paul Wilson who suffered a fatal peanut allergy. Photo / Supplied
Paul Wilson who suffered a fatal peanut allergy. Photo / Supplied

A debt ridden owner of an Indian restaurant killed a customer by serving him a meal that he knew contained potentially lethal peanut powder, a court heard.

Mohammed Zaman, 53, who was employing illegal workers in his takeaway, substituted almond powder with cheaper ground nut mix, which contained peanuts, as a way of cutting costs, a jury heard.

However he allegedly failed to warn customers and pub manager Paul Wilson, 38, who suffered a severe peanut allergy, died at his home after eating a curry made with the cheaper ingredient.

The waiter who took his order and the chef who prepared the meal were both in breach of immigration laws and working illegally.

Less than a month earlier, on January 3rd 2014, student Ruby Scott, 17, who suffered the same allergy, had already fallen seriously ill after suffering anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction - having eaten a chicken korma from another of Zaman's restaurants.

She was saved after being rushed to hospital and injected with an epi-pen.

Her mother later rang the restaurant, The Jaipur in Easingwold, North Yorks, to ask whether it contained peanuts but she was assured it did not and had been safe for allergy sufferers.

Zaman failed to act, continuing to sell meals containing peanuts whilst assuring customers they were safe for nut-allergy sufferers, it is alleged.

Paul Wilson was killed by the curry he bought at The Indian Garden restaurant, also in Easingwold, on January 30th 2014, despite clearly stating "no nuts" - an order that was written on the lid of his takeaway meal, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Richard Wright, QC, told the court Zaman cut corners to save cash.

After Ruby fell ill trading standards investigators bought a meal from one of Zaman's restaurants and discovered potentially lethal doses of peanuts.

Even the day after Paul Wilson died Zaman was still selling meals containing peanuts that purported to be safe for allergy sufferers, the court was told.

Mr Wright said: "We say Paul Wilson did what he always did and ordered no nuts in clear and simple terms.

"There was no confusion here. Instead there was a business in which corners were being cut for the sake of profits, systems were non-existent and the customer was constantly exposed to danger.

"There is no doubt at all that the curry he ate, the lid of which bore the legend "no nuts," contained peanuts and that the peanuts caused his death by way of an allergic reaction to eating them.

"An analysis of the curry recovered from the plate in the kitchen of Paul Wilson's home also demonstrated that peanut had killed him. Less than three grammes of the sauce from the curry would have been sufficient to give rise to the level of peanut in the stomach."

Mr Wilson, who discovered he had a peanut allergy aged seven after eating a Marathon bar, was found by his house-mate slumped in the bathroom of his home in Helperby, North Yorks, with fresh blood around his nose and mouth.

Mr Wright said Zaman deliberately cut corners because he was desperately needed to save cash, running his businesses at their overdraft limits.

With debts mounting Zaman met with his Blackburn-based food supplier Fakir Chilwan in June 2013 and asked him to replace almond power with ground nut powder, which was half the price, the prosecution alleged.

Mr Wright said: "He was told by Mr Chilwan that ground nut was in fact about half the price of almond. On being told that Mr Zaman instructed Chilwan to stop sending him almond and instead to send him ground nut powder.

"Mr Chilwan noted the request but also stressed that the change in ingredient was significant. He told Mr Zaman that if he changed product he would have to change his menu to ensure that customers knew he was using peanut ingredients in the preparation of food."

Allegedly Zaman said he would but in fact ignored the warning.

Mr Wright added: "The prosecution say therefore that the defendant had been given clear warning by his supplier as early as June 2013 that the product he had ordered for use in his kitchens posed a serious risk to the health, and potentially life, of any customer who might have a nut allergy."

In what is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind, Zaman denies the manslaughter of Mr Wilson.

He also denied contravening EU food safety regulations on January 3, 2014 and selling food not of the substance demanded on January 23 and 30.

Zaman pleaded not guilty to falsely describing food on a menu on January 23 that year, and contravening food safety regulations on January 23 and 30 by placing food described as nut-free on the market that was unsafe for nut allergy sufferers.

The trial, expected to last three weeks, continues.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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