Jilted boy facing life for house fire murders
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 26 May 2010
A schoolboy who took revenge for being dumped by killing his ex-girlfriend and her older sister in a house fire is facing a life sentence today.
The 15-year-old, who cannot be named because of his age, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering Maleha Masud, 15, and Nabiha Masud, 21.
Jurors heard that a day before the attack in June last year the boy had searched on Google for "how to burn someone's house down".
He is alleged to have recruited waiters Shihabouddin Choudhury, 21, and Rasal Khan, 19, to help him start the fierce blaze by pouring petrol through the Masuds' letterbox and setting light to it as the victims slept.
Maleha, described as "the baby of the family", died three days later and older sister Nabiha - who had been due to marry in October - after a month.
The girls' mother Rubina, 55, and brothers Zain, a 24-year-old banker, and schoolboy Junaid, 18, survived their injuries.
Maleha's boyfriend had previously threatened her that if she did not continue their relationship he would "do something to her and her family".
The boy was found guilty of murdering the two girls and the attempted murders of Rubina, Zain and Junaid. He put his head in his hands and wept as the verdicts were returned.
Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, prosecuting, said that Maleha had been in a "relationship of sorts" with the boy, who was 14 at the time, but it was not a serious one.
"The two of them broke up and it was then that (the boy) threatened Maleha that if she did not continue in the relationship he would do something to her and her family," he added.
"Why he should arrive at the extraordinary decision to burn down their house is really impossible to understand. It was obviously not the reaction of an ordinary and normal 14-year-old, however hurt he might feel about losing a girlfriend."
After the fire police said they were faced with a "real whodunit" but found out about Maleha's relationship with the boy after visits to schools and an appeal to the community by local Labour MP Sadiq Khan.
When the boy was arrested for murder he said: "I can't believe she is dead."
A search of the computer in his bedroom found that he had looked up how to burn someone's house down on Google and that pictures of the burnt and boarded-up property had been downloaded from the news websites and stored as the screensaver.
The boy, who looked several years older than his 15 years, claimed in court that he loved Maleha and he did not start the fire - although he said that he had been jealous of her talking to other boys.
The jury cleared Khan, of Earl Howe Street, Leicester, of the attempted murder charges.
Jurors will continue to consider the murder allegations against him tomorrow, along with murder and attempted murder charges against Choudhury, of Coventry Road, Nottingham.
The court heard that Mrs Masud shouted to her children to get out after being woken by the fireball in the early hours of June 21.
She said she leapt from a first-floor window to escape from the "intense" heat but when she looked round her daughters were nowhere to be seen.
Zain, her eldest son, had also jumped to safety but younger brother Junaid and the two girls were trapped inside, and Mrs Masud began screaming for help.
Neighbours tried to get into the house but were driven back by the heat while a voice inside could be heard shouting "help me, help me".
Junaid was rescued by firefighters and treated for burns and lung damage in intensive care. He survived.
Maleha had stopped breathing when she was discovered curled up at the bottom of her bunk bed.
She was resuscitated but had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and brain damage and her life support was withdrawn three days later.
Doctors hoped older sister Nabiha might survive but despite being transferred for treatment to a specialist unit in Chelmsford she died on July 25.
The Masuds were a "totally upright and law-abiding" and "high-achieving" family.
The court heard that Zain had gone to university before working in the City for Lehman Brothers and later Nomura.
Junaid had obtained top grades in his GCSEs and won a scholarship to Trinity School in Shirley. He hoped to go to university and become a doctor or engineer.
The father of the family, Nadir, had died in 2007.
Jurors were told that Mrs Masud would not have been aware of her daughter Maleha's relationship with the boy who started the fire.
According to the girl's friends, he had at first been "nice and caring" towards her but after they split up began harassing her and saying he would tell her mother about the relationship.
Two days before the fire, the boy called Maleha at home and made her cry, before she passed the phone to her mother and he said "I love her" two or three times.
She told friends that he had threatened that "if she would not go out with him again he would f*** her family up" and called her a "whore".
The jury were given a majority direction by the judge and sent home until tomorrow.
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