Police confirm 'no racist slurs or language' in viral video that 'made teacher's life hell'

West Midlands Police have confirmed a video sent viral that alleged a young teacher had made a 'racist slur' while out canvassing with a friend in the local elections contained no racist language. Police say they obtained the original doorbell footage and examined it closely after a complaint the woman featured had used racist language.

They found 'no evidence of any racist slurs or language used.' Their ruling backs up evidence obtained separately by the Labour Party that also found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The video, overlain with captions falsely showing what the woman was saying, went viral after it was shared by Akhmed Yakoob. The failed mayoral candidate, now aspiring to be an MP in Ladywood, shared it with his near 200,000 followers on TikTok and multiple other social platforms. His supporters joined in.

Yakoob, a criminal lawyer, also posted the 27-year-old woman canvasser's name and the school she teaches at in Wednesbury, with others sharing those details along with her phone and email details.

READ MORE: Teacher's 'life blown apart' in onslaught of hate as false racism claim goes viral

As a result, the woman and the school were besieged with abuse. At one point the school, Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School in Wednesbury, was receiving 100 emails an hour, with calls for her to be sacked, threats and abusive comments among them. She was personally inundated with phone and online messages.

The pile-on occurred in the wake of a widely shared doorbell video that went viral on Bank Holiday Monday. Yakoob circulated it to his 194,000-strong TikTok following and on Instagram and Twitter. The woman, speaking to BirminghamLive, and clearly distressed, said it had been a hellish experience.

"I have been unable to stop shaking, constantly on edge, it's brought my whole world crashing down. It is not only detrimental to my career as a teacher but also to my identity. All my life I have been known as a polite, well-mannered, helpful good person and always had a very good reputation and that was blown up by one false allegation."

She has received death threats, told she is a dirty racist b****, and warned to 'watch what happens' among thousands of messages. West Midlands Police say they are supporting her through her ordeal.

"I have had family and friends supporting me thankfully, and parents of pupils and my colleagues who know this is not something I would ever do have been amazing. I have a close relationship with them so it has been a relief seeing them make contact and sending me messages. I cannot thank the school enough for their support.

"I hope the people who posted this and pushed this false allegation never experience this for their own children and families. I hope they realise that their words and actions can impact someone's life forever."

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Her friend Qasim Mughal, since elected as councillor for Netherton and Holly Hall in Dudley, said the police statement vindicated what he already knew - he was within earshot of the exchange.

"My friend is the innocent victim of something horrific, and it shows how quickly fake news spreads. The video insinuates she says those words and people lapped it up."

In a brief statement, Mr Yakoob, said he has now 'deleted the post from all my social media' but continued to implore BirminghamLive to listen again to the video. When asked about the resulting abuse on account of her being 'outed' as a racist, he denied culpability, telling us: "I have not made any such claims and would like to see the findings made (by the Labour party and West Midlands Police) and will not make any further comment."

Others who posted the original video - including rapper Lowkey and local supporters of Yakoob - have since deleted it. When asked if he had carefully analysed the video originally before using it on his channels, he did not reply. Nazir Afzal, a son of Birmingham and former chief prosecutor, said in response to our story today: "The candidate and his allies need to respond with correction, with the same force that he and others circulated the false information. Online abuse has real-world consequences."

Qasim Mughal
Qasim Mughal, new councillor in Dudley, whose friend was out canvassing and supporting him on the election trail when she became a victim of an online onslaught -Credit:No credit

One city linguist said the mass 'mishearing' of the words was potentially an example of 'confirmation bias', especially when shared via a 'trusted source'.

Stephen Pihlaja, a linguistics expert at Aston University, said we can be 'primed' by context to 'mishear'. "If you already are told that racist comments might be in what is being said, you are ready to hear them. You hear what you are told to. In a case where someone powerful or someone you trust says that there is racist language (or primes you to hear racist language by saying, 'Is this racist language? You be the judge'), then you are ready to hear, or expecting to hear something racist."

Police statement

"Following allegations of a racist remark made by a canvasser in Dudley captured on doorbell footage, we have obtained the original audio and examined it closely. We have found no evidence of any racist slurs or language used. The canvasser has received significant abuse as a result of the footage being released on social media, which is distressing. She has been fully updated regarding our findings and offered our support."

The real exchange

The video extract at the centre of the storm features an exchange on the doorstep between the teacher (canvasser 1) and a resident, with a second canvasser (canvasser 2) also involved. The full exchange went:

Canvasser 1: "You voted for Labour lovely?"

Resident: "Nah man"

Canvasser 1: "Who did you vote for?"

Resident: "(Akhmed) Yakoob."

Canvasser 1: "No problem, thank you."

Canvasser 2: 'Who did they vote for?"

Canvasser 1 (the disputed line): "I couldn't understand...Ninety..." clip ends. (The number refers to the start of the house number)

Yakoob and others circulated a version of the doorbell footage overlaid with captions/transcript that claimed the final line comprised three words, two of them a slur against people of Pakistani origin.