‘I can­not imag­ine heartache of Me­gan’s fam­ily’

● Take­away man gives ev­i­dence at trial

Accrington Observer - - FRONT PAGE - KIM PILLING

THE death of a teenage girl fol­low­ing an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to a take­away meal is “killing me in­side,” a fa­ther-of-three has told a jury.

Harun Rashid, 38, who is ac­cused of the manslaugh­ter of 15-year-old Me­gan Lee, said he “can’t imag­ine” her fam­ily’s loss.

The Crown say he was the man­ager of the Royal Spice Take­away in Oswaldtwistle, where the nut al­lergy suf­ferer or­dered food on De­cem­ber 30, 2016.

But the de­fen­dant claims he was merely a de­liv­ery driver at the time and was not in a po­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It is al­leged there was a “litany of fail­ings” in the kitchen in­clud­ing poor hy­giene and no records of in­gre­di­ents kept, and that peanut pro­tein was con­tained in the fa­tal meal.

The teenager died two days af­ter she had an im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion to a seekh ke­bab and suf­fered ir­re­versible brain dam­age from a later asthma at­tack.

Five days af­ter her death the Royal Spice was closed down fol­low­ing an in­spec­tion by Trad­ing Stan­dards and en­vi­ron­men­tal health of­fi­cers, Man­ches­ter Crown Court has heard.

Rashid’s bar­ris­ter Pe­ter Moul­son QC asked him: “How did you feel when the busi­ness was closed down?”

The de­fen­dant said: “Sad be­cause a girl had died. We were not both­ered about our busi­ness but be­cause a girl had died ... it’s killing me in­side ev­ery day.

“Un­til I die I won’t for­get what hap­pened.”

Mr Moul­son said: “The pros­e­cu­tion say you are re­spon­si­ble for the death of a 15-year-old girl. How do you feel about that ac­cu­sa­tion?”

Rashid said: “I have not done it.”

Mr Moul­son con­tin­ued: “You are a fa­ther of three chil­dren, one who is 15. You know the Lee fam­ily have lost a daugh­ter of that age, do you have any­thing to say?”

The de­fen­dant replied: “I am a fa­ther my­self. Los­ing a daugh­ter is not easy. I can’t imag­ine.”

Rashid, of Hasling­den, con­firmed he had seen Me­gan’s or­der via the Just East web­site which had the words “nuts, prawns” in the com­ments sec­tion.

He told the court he did not be­lieve ei­ther in­gre­di­ent was con­tained in the meal or­dered and the restau­rant would not serve peo­ple who told them they had al­ler­gies.

Rashid, a Bangladeshi na­tional, said he set up the Royal Spice in 2009 but sold the busi­ness to co-de­fen­dant, Mo­hammed Ab­dul Kud­dus, 40, in late 2015.

When po­lice vis­ited the restau­rant on Jan­uary 2, 2017, he said he vol­un­teered the in­for­ma­tion that he was the man­ager.

He also agreed he signed a state­ment to the po­lice that he was the take­away man­ager.

Asked why, Rashid said: “I didn’t know the mean­ing of the word.

“It was a small busi­ness. There was no man­ager. There were only four peo­ple (there).”

He also told the court he “pre­tended” to be the man­ager when Trad­ing Stan­dards asked.

Kud­dus, of Belper Street, Black­burn, has ad­mit­ted a count of fail­ing to dis­charge a gen­eral duty of em­ploy­ers, con­trary to the Health and Safety at Work Act, and an­other count of fail­ing to put in place, im­ple­ment and main­tain a perma- nent pro­ce­dure or pro­ce­dures in con­tra­ven­tion of Eu­ro­pean Union food safety reg­u­la­tions.

He also en­tered guilty pleas to the same of­fences on be­half of Royal Spice Take­away Lim­ited, trad­ing as Royal Spice.

Rashid, of Rudd Street, Hasling­den, has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Kud­dus, also a Bangladeshi, and Rashid, both deny manslaugh­ter by rea­son of gross neg­li­gence. Rashid told Pe­ter Wright QC, pros­e­cut­ing, he had sold the busi­ness to Kud­dus - said not to speak English - for £25,000 but had only re­ceived a down­pay­ment of £15,000.

There was no writ­ten record of that trans­ac­tion and the deeds were to be ex­changed when the out­stand­ing sum was paid, he said. A num­ber of for­mal con­tracts also re­mained in Rashid’s name, the court heard.

But Rashid said he was only em­ployed as a de­liv­ery driver on £190 per week at the time of Me­gan’s death.

Rashid de­nied a sug­ges­tion from Mr Wright that he had tried to min­imise his role fol­low­ing his ar­rest in or­der to con­ceal the truth.

● PRO­CEED­ING

Steve Allen

● Harun Rashid, left, of the Royal Spice take­away, is on trial for manslaugh­ter af­ter Me­gan Lee, right, died fol­low­ing an ‘al­ler­gic re­ac­tion’ af­ter or­der­ing a take­away

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