‘I cannot imagine heartache of Megan’s family’
● Takeaway man gives evidence at trial
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.
● 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