The recent stabbing of Thavisha Lakindu Peiris exposes the dangers facing BME workers in the night-time economy, and is the latest such attack to have proved fatal.
Significant media attention has focused on Thavisha Lakindu Peiris’s death, in Sheffield on Sunday 27 October. As widely reported, at about 9.50pm the 25-year-old man delivered one last takeaway in his final shift as a Domino’s pizza delivery driver. After the customer rang up the shop, complaining that the food never turned up, a worried colleague drove out to find out what had happened. Some 40 minutes later he found him slumped in his car with multiple, fatal stab wounds.
Described as ‘gentle’ by his parents and ‘kind’ by his manager, Mr Peiris had recently finished a course at Sheffield Hallam University. He had moved from Sri Lanka to study in 2011, and had worked delivering pizzas after finishing his degree before starting his ‘dream job’ as an IT consultant. According to some reports, four delivery drivers have quit their job in the locality after hearing about what happened, although this is something that Domino’s denies. Some Sri Lankan students have reportedly spoken of their desire to leave the city.
No motive has been ascertained in the attack. Police have said that they are not ruling out the possibility of the death being racially motivated, but have stressed that there is nothing to suggest that this is the case.
What is clear is that his murder highlights, once again, the dangers that can face people from BME communities working in the trades related to the night-time economy, as delivery drivers, takeaway workers, taxi drivers and so on. As the IRR has documented, in the last ten years alone, there have been at least twelve people killed at work in such trades where there were known or suspected racial elements. Like with the death of Mr Peiris, in most cases, people were killed whilst isolated and alone, by a killer or killers who fled soon after.
Those killed in these circumstances are listed below:
- September 2012, Mohammed Saleem Khan – a delivery driver who was found slumped behind the wheel of his vehicle in Easingwold with a single stab wound to the neck. The crown argued that the death was not racially motivated, despite the killer being heard to say he was going to ‘do that P**i’.
- March 2012, John Auld – a white delivery driver who died in Scotland after stepping in to protect his manager from being harassed by two customers in an attack which police initially believed to be racially motivated. 59-year-old Mr Auld was kicked and punched at least ten times, according to witnesses.
- January 2012, Mehar Dhariwal – a taxi driver who was racially abused and beaten to death by a customer in Bedford. The attack took place after Mr Dhariwal followed company policy and asked the customer to pay his fare up-front.
- November 2011, Mahesh Wickramasinghe – a Sri Lankan shopkeeper stabbed to death by a customer in Liverpool. Police said that the attack was not racially motivated, despite a backdrop of racist attacks on Asian shopkeepers in the city.
- October 2011, Manzoor Ahmed – an elderly shopkeeper in Glasgow who died of a heart attack a week after being violently assaulted by customers who racially abused him and beat him to the floor after refusing to pay for a packet of crisps.
- August 2010, Simon San – a takeaway delivery driver in Edinburgh killed by teenagers as he returned from delivering some food. The family said they believed the attack was racially motivated and that staff at the takeaway had experienced numerous incidents of racial abuse by teenagers.
- July 2006, Mohammed Pervaiz – a taxi-driver in Huddersfield who died as a result of injuries he sustained in a racist gang attack by customers.
- April-May 2006, Khizar Hyat and Hamidullah Hamidi – two shopkeepers who were injured and later died as a result of a racist firebomb attack on their shop in Kennington, south London.
- April 2005, Mi Gao Huang Chen – a Chinese takeaway owner murdered by a gang of about twenty people in Wigan. The attack came after a campaign of racial harassment.
- November 2003, Quadir Ahmed – An Indian restaurant owner died nearly a month after suffering head injuries in a racist attack outside his restaurant in Eastcote Village near Ruislip, west London.
- April 2003, Paul Rosenberg – a South African taxi driver stabbed to death by a customer in the Isle of Wight. The man later said he only killed him ‘because he is black’.
Postscript: On 2 November 2013, Shamraze Khan, 25, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, were charged with Thavisha Peiris’ murder.
Read an IRR report: ‘Racial violence: facing reality‘
Read an IRR News story: ‘Racial violence and the night-time economy’
Read an IRR News story: ‘Deaths with a (known or suspected) racial element 2000 onwards’