Stabbed to death as her family watched... for honour

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The Independent Online

Samaira Nazir was the brightest of her family. Articulate and well-educated, she graduated from university before taking a directorship in their recruitment business.

Salman Mohammed's life had been less smooth. Desperate to flee Afghanistan, he was smuggled into Britain in the back of a lorry and made a living selling phone cards from a market stall.

But when the pair met they fell in love, and for years conducted a secret affair before finally defying her family and announcing their wedding plans. It proved a fatal move and led to Samaira's death in a so-called "honour" killing.

It was Samaira's brother, Azhar Nazir, 30, who introduced them. And five years later it was Nazir who would wrench them apart, savagely murdering his sister when he learnt of her "unsuitable" engagement.

Yesterday Nazir, along with a 17-year-old cousin, Imran Mohammed, real name Kashif Rana, were jailed for life for the "barbaric" murder of the 25-year-old businesswoman.

Ordering that Nazir serve at least 20 years and Mohammed 10, Judge Christopher Moss described how Samaira fought desperately for life, adding: "She suffered a brutal, gruesome and prolonged death in her own home."

To Nazir, he continued: "You were Samaira's judge and jury. You may not have been alone in that respect. You claimed you loved your sister dearly when you orchestrated her murder."

The Old Bailey trial heard how the pair repeatedly knifed the young woman as in a "prolonged and frenzied attack". At one point her bloody arm emerged through the front door before she was dragged back by her hair.

Nazir's two daughters, aged two and four, were spattered with blood as they stood just feet away - forced to watch, police fear, the killing of a rebellious sister. Her mother stood near by.

The case, which ended yesterday, will reignite the debate over so-called honour killings in Britain. Over the past few years, Scotland Yard has set up a dedicated unit to look into 109 suspicious deaths. Nine have been confirmed in this category and an equal number are seen as most probably honour-related.

Mr Mohammed told the jury how he met Nazir after approaching him at the successful grocery store he ran with his father in Southall. H e told jurors that he and Samaira "were as boyfriend and girlfriend for about five or six years. But we couldn't tell her family because Samaira said her father was a very strict man who would not allow any female in his family to marry outside of his caste or tribe."

Mr Mohammed tried to ingratiate himself by arranging for a cousin, who would eventually murder his girlfriend, to be brought to Britain. Meanwhile the pair kept their relationship secret. Twice the young woman was taken to Pakistan to find a suitor for an arranged marriage and twice she refused. In March 2005, she told her family she had become engaged and they reacted furiously, her father insisting the Afghan was only after money. At one point he approached Mr Mohammed on his stall and threatened him with a knife. When the young man called Samaira's brother to try and reason with him, he threatened to kill both of them.

On 23 April 2005, Samaira and Mr Mohammed tried to see her mother, Irshad Begum, at a relative's house, but she refused. Instead the young woman was summoned to the family home in Southall, west London, where her 61-year-old father, also called Azhar, brother and cousin attacked her. She was held down while her throat was cut in three places and she was stabbed 18 times.

As she screamed for help a neighbour banged on the door, but the father emerged claiming that his daughter was having a fit. Another neighbour spotted Samaira's bloodsoaked arm emerging from the front door before she was dragged back inside.

As they heard her begging for help, her last words were for Mrs Begum: "You are not my mother any more." Police found a trail of blood across the house and Samaira's body slumped in the hallway.

As he was led away, Nazir said: "There had been a problem with my sister. She does not wish to have an arranged marriage. We only allow marriage within the family."

Nazir and Mohammed both denied murder, the former claiming he was in another room and the latter that he believed Samaira was a victim of black magic. Both were convicted last month.

Samaira's father fled to Pakistan after being charged. His family claim he has died, though police are still trying to track him down. Charges against her mother were later dropped.

After yesterday's sentencing, Detective Inspector John Reid said: 'There is no honour in taking somebody's life. Honour is about power, and power is about money and that is the motive behind this crime."

Murdered to protect the good name of the family

* Heshu Yones, 16, was stabbed 11 times by her Kurdish father, Abdalla, 48, on 12 October 2002, when he discovered she was seeing a Lebanese Christian boy. He broke down the door of the bathroom where she had barricaded herself, slit her throat and left her to bleed to death.

* Faqir Mohammed stabbed his 24-year-old daughter, Shahida Parveen, 20 times in the head and stomach after finding her fully clothed in her bedroom with her secret boyfriend in June 2001. He told police: "According to the law it was not right, but according to religion it was right."

* Rukhsana Naz was seven months' pregnant when her mother held her down as her brother Shazad Ali, 22, strangled her with a plastic flex in 1998. The 19-year-old, who had been married four years earlier to a man who remained in Pakistan, had had an affair.