Father jailed for life for daughter's 'honour killing'

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A father who murdered his15-year-old daughter because of her “Romeo and Juliet” romance with a man from a different branch of Islam was today found guilty of her ‘honour killing’.

More than a decade after Tulay Goren disappeared from the family home in Woodford Green, London her father Mehmet was convicted following his wife’s dramatic evidence against him in court.

But police were criticised for their early handling of the case when it emerged that officers missed several warning signs that could have prevented the teenager’s death.

The Goren family was spoken to by the police at least six times about violence in the household – including when Tulay told officers she had been assaulted by her father over the relationship, but no-one envisaged that she would be murdered.

Officers insist they were operating in an environment and at a time when the codes and customs of honour-killing were little-known in the UK. Judged by the standards of the day, the original investigation team did all they could, senior detectives say. But standards are different now. It is suggested that about a dozen women are the victims of honour killings in the UK every year.

Tulay, whose body has never been found, was murdered in January 1999 because her father, a part time fish and chip worker, was angry at her choice of boyfriend.

Halil Unal, a 30-year-old Turkish man was not only twice his daughter’s age, he was also a Sunni Muslim. While the Goren’s were also Muslims, and also Turkish, they followed the Alevi sect of the religion and a relationship between Sunnis and Alevis was considered unacceptable.

Tulay had run away to live with him in December 1998 but was dragged back home by her father on January 6, where he beat her and tied her up.

Later that night she tried to escape by jumping out of the bathroom window but she was later made to drink coffee laced with sleeping tablets. The next day Mehmet Goren sent his wife and three other children away from the house. Goren told his eight-year-old son Tuncay to kiss Tulay goodbye as he would never see his sister again.

Jailing him, Mr Justice Bean, said Goren's attempts to appear a “thoroughly modern and enlightened family man” failed to deceive the jury.

“The reality is that your enigmatic smile conceals a violent and dominating personality,” he said.

“Your wife Hanim has finally had the courage to break free of the domination and reveal what she knew of what you did in January 1999.”

He said Goren planned the murder of his daughter with "considerable care", even forcing her to write a letter relating a false account of what had happened to her to try to throw police off the scent.

“You did all this simply because you regarded it as unacceptable that she, rather than you, should choose the man she wanted to marry. The term ‘honour killing’ is a convenient shorthand, but it is a grotesque distortion of language.

“There is nothing honourable about such a hideous practice or the people who carry it out.”

The judge made clear Goren would not be eligible for parole until 2030, when he will be nearly 70.

Speaking after the verdict Tulay’s sister Nuray, 28 said: “For my father, I have only one request. I ask that he finally discloses the whereabouts of my sister.

“I wake up at night wondering where Tulay may be. In quiet moments during the day I ask myself if she suffered or knew what was in store for her.

“I ask that he put an end to the nightmares that haunt us and allow us to retrieve Tulay in order that she may rest in peace.”

How Tulay was killed remains a mystery but detectives believe Goren may have smothered her or strangled her with the washing line.

Jurors were not told that years ago in Turkey, Goren had tried to kill his wife and children by letting off a gas cylinder and shutting them in as they slept. One of the children woke up and opened a window, and he ran off.

On another occasion he had tried to force feed rat poison to his wife and when she fought him off tried to inject her with it, before being interrupted by one of the children.

Mehmet and his family, ethnic Kurds from the eastern part of Turkey, came to Britain in the 1990s and claimed asylum.

His eldest daughter, Nuray, said her father made life “hell” for her when she got engaged and tried to kill himself by drinking bleach and taking tablets when he heard she had been seen holding hands with fiance, now husband, Ceyhan Guler. Mrs Guler wailed with anguish at her father when she faced him during the trial.

She screamed in Turkish: “Even animals would not do what you have done. You have darkened our world and ruined our lives.”

Mrs Guler was against her sister’s relationship with Mr Unal.

She said: “She was very young and she was vulnerable. She was a child looking for happiness. Maybe what she was looking for was a father. Maybe she found a love that she did not get from her father.”

Police and lawyers praised Mrs Goren and Tulay’s sister Nuray and Halil Unal for giving evidence.

Crown prosecution lawyer Damaris Lakin said: “The courage and conviction that it took for them to speak out should not be underestimated.

“It is because of them that justice has at last been done for Tulay.”

She added: “Mehmet Goren was supposed to protect Tulay, but betrayed and murdered her for nothing more

than having a relationship that he did not approve of. He killed his own daughter because he believed that she had shamed him.

“But his conviction today shows that the true shame was and always will be his to bear.”

So-called honour crimes were often carried out under a “cloak of secrecy”.

But she added: “A body can disappear and time can pass, but we can and will bring to justice those responsible.”