Friday Apr 09, 2021
LONDON: A Pakistani family is appealing for the increase in the punishment of those found to be involved in hit-and-run killing of Pakistani restaurant owner Syed Shiraz Haider Zaidi.
Zaidi was killed by a 21-year-old runaway driver, who was taking drugs minutes ahead of running over the victim. He was given a 18-month jail sentence by a UK court.
Gary Haffenden was over-speeding when he hit Syed Zaidi, 35, in Virginia Water, Surrey, on March 17, 2019 in front of his wife and two children. This week he was given the 18-month jail term by the Reading Crown Court.
Zaidi’s family has expressed disappointment that the serial offender has been jailed only for 18 months which means he will be back on the roads in a few months.
The victim’s brother-in-law Syed Ali Raza Zaidi has initiated a campaign via an online petition calling on the UK Parliament to change the law that lets offenders get away with murder.
The victim was originally from Karachi where most of his family still resides.
Zaidi had moved to the UK a few years ago and was running a successful restaurant business.
At the time of the hit-and-run, Zaidi was covering a job for one of his staff members while Gary Haffenden was on the way to pick up two girls.
The court saw the CCTV footage of Gary Haffenden sucking on a balloon thought to be filled with nitrous oxide — known as “laughing gas”.
The court also heard that Haffenden was involved in another crash on August 16, 2018. On that occasion he had fallen asleep behind the wheel of his car and left victim Graham Nichols with life-changing injuries.
Zaidi's widow Afsheen Shiraz told the court ahead of the sentencing: “After this incident I have lost myself, I have to take care of my children alone, I am totally incomplete without him. My heart weeps every night. When my children ask when their papa is coming back I am left speechless. My daughter said she wanted to become a doctor so she can heal her father from the accident"
She recalled that on the fateful day they were all sitting in the car for a family day out at Virginia Water.
"We were looking to our husband delivering food, after that he was coming back — my children saw it all. We will never forget that moment," said Shiraz.
She told the court that she saw her husband upside down as blood was coming out of his mouth.
"I cannot explain — it was horrible, the worst day of my life. It all happened in the blink of an eye,” said the widow.
The court heard that Haffenden was on police bail, for the crash that injured Nichols nine months earlier, when he killed Zaidi.
Haffenden admitted causing death by careless driving, causing death while uninsured and failing to stop, as well as admitting to the previous offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The victim's brother said that the laws are outdated and need strengthening to discourage those who violate rules.
He said that Gary Haffenden killed his brother-in-law and his sister is now left with two beautiful kids, aged under five.
“We can clearly see that guy (Gary Haffenden) was on bail before killing Syed Shiraz Haider Zaidi recklessly while using laughing gas, this kind of crime should not be given only 18 months punishment, if someone is using drugs it should be a murder rather considering it death by dangerous or careless," said the victim's brother-in-law.
He said that the family was appealing for justice for all victims.
"We want the UK Parliament to take steps to make new and relevant laws to give toughest punishment to the offenders,” he said.