'You threw it all away in pursuit of profit': Curry house boss who killed allergic customer by switching almonds for cheap nut powder is jailed for six years
- Restaurant boss Mohammed Zaman used peanut powder to save money
- Paul Wilson collapsed and died after eating takeaway curry in January 2014
- He had ordered a meal with no nuts from Indian Garden in North Yorkshire
- Zaman had debts of £300,000 yet was still sending his son to private school
- Businessman guilty of customer's manslaughter and six food safety crimes
- Mr Wilson's parents say: 'Justice has been served, Paul can rest in peace'
A penny-pinching restaurant boss was today jailed for six years after being found guilty of killing a customer by serving him a meal containing ground peanuts and triggering a fatal allergic reaction.
Mohammed Zaman, 53, used cheaper ground peanuts at his restaurants, rather than almond powder, resulting in the manslaughter of nut allergy sufferer Paul Wilson, 38, in North Yorkshire.
Mr Wilson never recovered after eating a takeaway curry from the Indian Garden in Easingwold, despite telling staff he could not eat nuts – and a judge has now blasted Zaman as ‘reckless’.
Recorder of Middlesbrough Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said Zaman had built up his businesses since arriving in Britain 40 years and gathered a property portfolio worth more than £2million.
He added: ‘You threw all that away. You have done so in pursuit of profit. You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual. Paul Wilson was in the prime of his life. He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man.’
Shocking: Mohammed Zaman, 53, left, is guilty of manslaughter after he used cheaper ground peanuts at his restaurants rather than almond powder, resulting in the death of nut allergy sufferer Paul Wilson, 38, right
Mr Wilson died at his home in Helperby, North Yorkshire, in January 2014 after starting to eat a takeaway from Zaman's Indian Garden restaurant in Easingwold (pictured)
The judge said married father-of-four Zaman had told ‘many lies’ to the jury, adding: ‘You remain in complete and utter denial for what you have done.’
Earlier Mr Wilson’s heartbroken parents Keith and Margaret Wilson said today that a mere mouthful of the contaminated chicken tikka masala was enough to kill their son.
During a trial that led to his conviction it emerged that Zaman ran up £294,000 debts in his restaurants so was substituting ingredients for cheaper alternatives.
Yet he was still paying for his son to go to the prestigious private St Peter's School in York from his business account.
Mr Wilson died three weeks after a teenage customer at another of Zaman's six restaurants suffered an allergic reaction which required hospital treatment.
Detective Inspector Shaun Page said Mr Wilson's death was 'totally avoidable'
The prosecution said the owner had a 'reckless and cavalier attitude to risk' and 'put profit before safety' at the restaurants he owned.
Zaman, from Huntington, York, denied manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and six food safety offences.
He was found guilty of all charges except perverting course of justice.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, will pass sentence this afternoon and Zaman's barrister Alistair Webster QC said his client understood he will be jailed.
Zaman was granted bail to spend lunchtime with his family but was told he must remain in the building.
He did not visibly react when the guilty verdicts were returned. Family members sobbed and hugged him as he left court and went into a consultation room.
After what was thought to be the first successful prosecution of its kind, Detective Inspector Shaun Page said the case showed food suppliers have a duty of care to customers.
'We have shown Zaman had a duty of care to serve safe food,' he said. 'He has breached that duty to a criminal standard.'
Outside court, Mr Wilson's parents Keith and Margaret said they were relieved and urged more staff to be trained about allergens.
They said: 'Justice has been served, Paul can rest in peace.
'We can't go back and change the past, all we can do is focus on the present and the future and making things right. Don't let this happen again.'
Martin Goldman, chief crown prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: 'In this conviction, the CPS has sent a very clear message to the catering industry: there is a duty of care to your customers.
'If you ignore your responsibilities and regulations and put lives at real risk then we will not hesitate to prosecute.'
Heartbroken: Keith and Margaret Wilson with their son Paul Wilson, who died after eating a takeaway curry from the Indian Garden, Easingwold
Zaman had claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff. He was not on the premises when the curry was sold.
The court heard one member of staff working at the Indian Garden that night has now been deported and another has vanished.
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said Mr Wilson had told staff that his meal must be nut-free.
He said the restaurant had written 'no nuts' on his order and on the lid of his curry.
Mr Wright said: 'Mohammed Zaman received numerous warnings that he was putting his customers' health, and potentially their lives, at risk.
Zaman had claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff
'Tragically for Paul Wilson, Mohammed Zaman took none of those opportunities and ignored all of the warnings he was given.
'His was a reckless and cavalier attitude to risk and one that we, the prosecution, would describe as grossly negligent.'
Mr Wright added: 'Time and again he ignored the danger and did not protect his customers.
'The evidence will establish that Mohammed Zaman put profit before safety and that he cut corners at every turn.'
Police and trading standards launched an investigation following Mr Wilson's death.
Groundnut powder was found in the kitchen of the Indian Garden and had contaminated other ingredients. And a test purchaser went to the Indian Garden the day after Mr Wilson's death and was assured by a staff member that they could buy a nut-free curry.
Mr Wilson's parents Keith and Margaret, from Sheffield, said their son had carefully managed his condition since he was seven when he had a reaction to a Marathon chocolate bar.
He loved curry but was always clear when ordering that his food must not contain nuts, she said.
Outside court, Mr Wilson's parents Keith and Margaret said they were relieved and urged more staff to be trained about allergens. They said: ‘Justice has been served, Paul can rest in peace.
‘We can't go back and change the past, all we can do is focus on the present and the future and making things right. Don't let this happen again.’
Detective Inspector Shaun Page said: ‘This is a really sad case. Paul's death was totally avoidable in our opinion. Mr Zaman was in debt to the tune of around £300,000 and to try to reduce costs he cut corners that we believe led to Paul's death.
‘He employed illegal immigrants, he didn't train his employees correctly in the service of safe food and he swapped an ingredient for a cheaper ingredient that contained peanuts that ultimately killed Paul.’
And Martin Goldman, chief crown prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, added: ‘In this conviction, the CPS has sent a very clear message to the catering industry: there is a duty of care to your customers.
‘If you ignore your responsibilities and regulations and put lives at real risk then we will not hesitate to prosecute.’
Big spender: Desite huge debts Zaman, from Huntington, York, was paying for his son to go to the prestigious St Peter's School in York (pictured) from his business account
FACT BOX: THE RISE OF PEANUT ALLERGIES AND HOW IT STRIKES
The death of peanut allergy sufferer Paul Wilson after he ate a curry despite having ordered a nut-free takeaway has worried people with the condition.
How bad is the problem of peanut allergies?
According to the charity Allergy UK, peanut allergy prevalence among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years.
What do doctors say about the increase?
Amena Warner, the charity's head of clinical services, said it prompted research into peanut allergy and asked the 'question if early introduction into a baby's weaning diet could produce tolerance of the immune system and prevent peanut allergy for future generations'.
What should you do if someone seems to be having a reaction?
Ms Warner said a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, happens very quickly and is an acute emergency which should not be underestimated. She said people should look out for a patient having difficulty breathing, feeling faint or passing out if they have been exposed to a food they are allergic to.
'An ambulance should be called and the person taken to hospital as soon as possible,' she said. 'If the person carries adrenaline, this should be administered. If asthma is present and not well controlled, this can be an additional risk factor.'
Has anything changed since Paul Wilson died in January 2014?
'Food labelling legislation was introduced in December 2014 to help people identify and know exactly what is in their food, such as the 14 most common foods to cause an allergic reaction,' Ms Warner said. 'Still, accidental exposure may occur.'
Curry victim's heartbroken parents say just a mouthful of the contaminated chicken tikka masala was enough to kill their son
Paul Wilson's heartbroken parents revealed today that their son was allergic to peanuts even smelling them could send his body into shock.
The 38-year-old from Sheffield was only seven when he had a reaction to a Marathon chocolate bar which required him to have hospital treatment, and led to his diagnosis.
Throughout his career in the hospitality industry, running bars and restaurants, he was 'meticulous' about dealing with nuts, his parents said.
Grief: Keith and Margaret Wilson said today that their son only needed to smell peanuts to make him very ill
His mother Margaret and father Keith said even the smell of nuts, or accidentally drinking from the same glass as someone who was eating them, could trigger a reaction.
Just a mouthful of the contaminated chicken tikka masala takeaway would have been enough for peanut allergy sufferer Paul Wilson to know something was seriously wrong, his parents said.
At a cousin's wedding he had a reaction after eating a piece of cake, despite avoiding the marzipan, but was all right after drinking a lot of water and taking an anti-histamine.
If he was going on holiday he would call the airline and ask them not to serve nuts on the flight as he could get a reaction just from smelling peanuts through the plane's air conditioning.
He loved curry but was always clear with staff about his allergy, asking for his meal not to be cooked in peanut oil and saying it must not contain any nuts.
That, tragically, did not happen when he picked up a takeaway from the Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire, despite the order and the takeaway carton lid saying 'no nuts'.
Mrs Wilson said: 'Nothing can bring Paul back but it is our sincere hope that his death will raise awareness in the food industry so this never happens again. We also ask anyone with a food allergy to always be aware.'
She added: 'He was always very, very careful whenever he was out in a restaurant or working.'
Mr Wilson said: 'We wouldn't want any other parents to go through this.'
BOSS HAD 'THE IMMIGRANT STORY TO WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD ASPIRE'
Born in Bangladesh, Zaman came to the UK aged 15 in the late 1970s without a penny to his name
Until his conviction for manslaughter Mohammed Zaman's was ‘the immigrant story to which everyone should aspire’, his barrister said.
Born in Sylhet, Bangladesh, he came to the UK aged 15 in the late 1970s without a penny to his name, and initially worked for his uncle in the restaurant businesss.
Zaman, a married father-of-four, bought and sold a number of Indian restaurants, finally owning six in York and North Yorkshire.
His restaurants have won acclaim from organisations such as Trip Advisor, the British Catering Association, the British Curry Awards and local business honours, the court was told.
His three oldest children were at university and his youngest, 15, was at private school, Teesside Crown Court heard.
He also gathered a property portfolio worth more than £2m, but he had built up debt of almost £300,000 when he started to cut corners to reduce costs.
Alistair Webster QC, defending, said in mitigation: ‘His is the immigrant story to which everyone should aspire.’
He added: ‘He arrived in the UK without a penny to his name.
‘It is clear he worked hard for many years, bringing up a family of law-abiding children while working very hard to build up businesses which supported a large number of people.’
Mr Webster said his family were ‘aghast’ at what has happened and there were concerns about the future of the business after he was jailed, as he was the public face of the firm, and had the banks' trust.
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