How a mother's courage solved daughter's murder

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The Independent Online

In the interview room of Loughton police station Hanim Goren broke down in tears. “I have told you a lie,” she said. “Mehmet has swallowed her. Mehmet has disappeared her.”

It was 23 March 1999, two months since her 15-year-old daughter Tulay had gone missing and, after a series of false statements to the police, Mrs Goren had finally summoned the courage to tell the truth; that her husband had murdered their teenage daughter in a so-called honour killing.

But for a litany of legal reasons it would be more than ten years before justice would be done. For Hanim Goren it was a decade of torment which began in the summer of 1998 when she took her daughter on work experience to the Techron Trading clothing factory in Hackney, east London.

There she met and started a relationship with Halil Unal, a 30-year-old Turkish man which enraged her father Mehmet.

To her father the affair made her a “worthless commodity” because he could not marry her off for £5,000. The relationship was also unacceptable to him because Mr Unal was a Sunni Muslim while the Gorens followed the Alevi branch of the faith.

Mr Goren, 49, demanded the relationship end and, on 10 December 1998, turned up unannounced at the factory to attack Mr Unal. But Halil and Tulay refused to end the relationship and, four days later, Tulay ran away from the family’s home in Woodford Green, north London, to live with Mr Unal.

Surprisingly, given his initial fury, Mr Goren seemed to soften to the idea of a relationship and allowed the pair to marry.

They got as far as Hackney Register Office on 21 December before the registrar realised that Tulay was still only 15 and therefore too young to wed, something which, having been told by the girl she was 17, Mr Unal was unaware of. Not familiar with British marriage laws, the Gorens, who came to the UK from Turkey in the 1990s, said they did not realise that the girl had to be 16.

A new wedding date was set for the day after Tulay’s 16th birthday, which would have been in March 1999. But Mehmet Goren – had changed his mind and by this stage – had no intention of allowing the marriage to go ahead.

On 6 January 1999 he turned up at Mr Unal’s flat and kidnapped his own daughter, taking her back to the family home in north London, ostensibly because he was not happy that Mr Unal’s flatmate, a single man, was also living in the house with them.

He told Mr Unal that he would allow Tulay to return when he had found a home for the pair. It was the last time Tulay was seen alive. The following day she was murdered, but her body was never found.

In the meantime Mehmet continued to pretend to Mr Unal that the girl was alive. At one point the pair met at a pub, along with others, to discuss arrangements for the wedding. When Goren agreed that the pair could marry, he suggested that Mr Unal phone Tulay to tell her the good news.

While Mr Unal was on the phone Goren attacked him with an axe, leaving a gash in his neck four inches deep and two inches wide. Mehmet was convicted of grievous bodily harm for the attack in 2000 and spent three years in prison – but the attack was never officially linked to Tulay’s disappearence.

The breakthrough in the investigation came from Mrs Goren broke down and admitted to police that she had lied when she told them Tulay had run away from home. She told detectives that her husband had decided to kill the girl because her relationship brought disrespect on the family.

But, despite being prepared to testify against her husband, Hanim would have to wait ten years for the chance. The police case was deemed not strong enough by the Crown Prosecution Service. Obstacles to a successful prosecution in 1999 included the fact that hearsay evidence, which was relied upon for much of the trial, was not generally admissible in the UK criminal courts until 2003.

Also, because there was no body, it was felt that it would be difficult to prove that the girl was not alive and simply living in another country. She would not be declared officially dead for another seven years.

When the prosecution finally went ahead this year it relied heavily on the testimony of Hanim Goren. Although she did not see the crime take place she told the jury of events in the days before and after her daughter’s disappearance.

That day before the killing Mrs Goren said that she had seen her daughter tied up in her bedroom. When she tried to untie Tulay, Goren had stopped her. She explained how on the day of the murder she was sent by her husband to stay with his brother, Cuma. He told his wife that he and Tulay had “things to talk about”.

When she returned the following day Mrs Goren noticed that her husband’s clothes were soaking in a bucket of reddish-brown water. And that his hands were injured. She also noted that two kitchen knives were missing as were dustbin bags and the washing line. The back garden, she told the court, had been dug up. When she asked her husband why this was he said he planned

to plant spring onions and flowers. But he had never done any gardening before and owned no gardening tools. It was enough – even ten years on – for the jury to convict.