A North Yorkshire restaurateur has been jailed for six years after being found guilty of manslaughter following the death of a customer who died after eating a takeaway containing high levels of peanut.
Mohammed Kalique Zaman, 53, of Aylesham Court, Huntingdon, York, who owned the Indian Garden takeaway and restaurant in Easingwold, was found guilty by a jury at Teesside Crown Court on Monday following a two-week trial. He was also found guilty of six food safety offences.
Paul Wilson, 38, from Helperby near Boroughbridge, who was diagnosed as having a severe peanut allergy at the age of seven, died after eating a takeaway that he believed did not contain peanuts.
On the night of 30 January 2014, despite ordering a nut-free meal – the lid of the takeaway was clearly marked “no nuts” - Paul was served a chicken tikka masala dish that contained high levels of peanut.
Paul returned home and prior to eating his takeaway, spoke to his mum on the phone. He told her that he planned to eat his meal before having an early night. He then started to eat his meal but tragically, did not finish it.
At approximately 11:30pm that night, Paul’s housemate returned to the property and found a barely eaten takeaway curry and onion bhaji on the kitchen table before finding Paul dead in the bathroom.
A joint investigation by North Yorkshire Police and North Yorkshire Trading Standards found that Mr Zaman, who owned several other takeaways and restaurants in the York area, was in financial difficulty and had substituted almond powder for ground nut powder - a considerably cheaper product.
A Trading Standards investigation was ongoing at the time of Paul’s death after a 16-year-old girl was admitted to hospital for several days having also suffered an allergic reaction after eating a takeaway from the Indian Garden.
Despite being warned by both the supplier of the ground nut powder and specifically by Trading Standards as a result of the hospital admission, Mr Zaman continued to use the cheaper ground nut powder in his dishes.
North Yorkshire Police’s Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Shaun Page, said: “I welcome the court’s verdict which has found Mr Zaman responsible for Paul Wilson’s death. However, no verdict can bring Paul back, or undo the devastation caused to his family.
“My thoughts remain firmly with Paul’s parents, Margaret and Keith, who have lost their only child because of Zaman’s dangerous attitude to his customers’ safety. They have acted with utmost dignity throughout this long process and I sincerely hope that the verdict will give them a small amount of comfort, knowing that someone has been held to account for their son’s death. I know their greatest wish, regardless of the verdict, is that this does not happen to anyone else.
“This has been a unique and challenging investigation which identified witnesses across the UK. A key factor has been the joint working with colleagues from Trading Standards and the Crown Prosecution Service to secure charges.
“Paul’s death was avoidable and the outcome of this case sends a clear message to those who operate similar businesses that if they choose to operate in such a grossly negligent way, they are liable to prosecution as well as having to live with the potential deadly consequences.”
A statement from Paul’s parents, Margaret and Keith Wilson, said:
“We are relieved that justice has been served and Paul can now rest in peace.
“The death of our only son Paul on 30 January 2014, shattered our world and we are still struggling to come to terms with his death.
“We found out from the early age of seven that Paul had a nut allergy and that made us more aware of food products and their ingredients, even items which stated ‘may contain nuts’ were never purchased.
“Paul’s nut allergy had always played a very important role in his life especially when he started working in the hospitality industry as a chef at the age of 18. Paul was always very particular about the food he ate and would go out of his way to cater for customers with various allergies.
“Nothing can bring Paul back but it is our sincere hope that his death will raise awareness in the food industry so that this never happens again. We also ask anyone with a food allergy to always be aware.”