*WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT*
A heartless father who killed his two young children by smothering their faces with a petrol-soaked cloth and then tried to kill his wife in a gas explosion has been found guilty of murder.
Taxi driver Endris Mohammed attempted to murder his partner, Penil Teklehaimanot, by tampering with a gas pipe and setting fire to the family home in Hamstead, Birmingham.
Mohammed had denied the murders of eight-year-old Saros Endris and his sister Leanor, six, claiming diminished responsibility allegedly caused by a depressive disorder.
He said he was worried about money issues.
He was convicted after a two-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court which was told Mohammed – who was found guilty of two counts of murder and one of attempted murder – appeared normal in the run-up to the deaths.
He will be sentenced on Monday.
Although he did not give evidence during his trial, the 47-year-old, who suffered serious burns to his head after setting his cab alight on the night of the killings, admitted smothering his children.
After killing the youngsters, he then tried to set his house ablaze as his wife was asleep upstairs in the early hours of October 28 last year.
However Mrs Teklehaimanot was woken by the home’s smoke alarm and frantically tried to wake her children.
The court heard that Mohammed had met his wife in 2006 in Kent, after they came to Britain from East Africa as asylum seekers.
Giving evidence during the trial, Mrs Teklehaimanot said Mohammed was ‘a gentle, quiet man’ who had not seemed angry or irritable in the months before her children were killed.
Mrs Teklehaimanot was sleeping upstairs when Mohammed smothered Saros and Leanor during a half-term ‘sleepover’ in the lounge.
The court heard Mohammed claimed he had decided to end his own life because his ‘hopes for a good life in England’ had failed, but police inquiries showed the family could live off his wife’s earnings as a care worker.
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Commenting after the verdicts, Detective Inspector Justin Spanner, of West Midlands Police, described the deaths as an ‘absolutely horrific’ set of events.
‘The evidence of the pre-planning, the fact that two children have lost their lives, who were so young, vibrant, and were doing so well at school and had such a wonderful future ahead of them both – this has to be one of the worst cases I’ve dealt with,’ he said.
‘Had the fire taken hold, and had gas escaped from the pipe, it could have caused an immense explosion and killed even more people than we are dealing with at the moment.
He added: ‘Penil has lost absolutely everything in this. She has lost her children, her husband who she trusted and loved the most, she has lost her house.
‘She is an extremely brave lady who has been put through not only that, but also having to go to court to give evidence.
‘The investigation team, and the I’m sure the community, hope that she is able to find a way of going forward.’
Judge Mr Justice Gilbart, addressing the jurors after the verdicts, said he wanted to hear further legal submissions before giving his verdict early next week.