Jealous man who suffocated student with face mask before dumping body in suitcase guilty of murder

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Muhammed Arslan forced a face mask into the mouth of a 21-year-old student before dumping her body

An obsessive man who suffocated a 21-year-old student with a face mask in a jealous rage before dumping her body in a suitcase has been found guilty of murder.

Muhammad Arslan, 27, forced a floral patterned mask into the mouth of Hina Bashir after she visited his shared flat in Ilford, east London on the evening of 11 July last year.

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She visited his home alongside two female friends to collect some belongings she had left there while moving, but when she did not come out of the property, her friends had to leave without her and the student was never seen alive again, jurors at the Old Bailey were told.

Mr Arslan claimed he had only meant to quieten her after confronting her over naked photographs of her that he had been sent.

Hina Bashir, 21, was murdered by Muhammad Arslan (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)Hina Bashir, 21, was murdered by Muhammad Arslan (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)
Hina Bashir, 21, was murdered by Muhammad Arslan (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire) | Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Having killed her, he put her body into a suitcase in the bedroom he shared with a friend and stored it there overnight. He then spent hours trawling through her private messages and photographs on her mobile phone, the court heard.

Mr Arslan then set off from his house the following morning dragging a suitcase containing Ms Bashir’s body and travelled to an industrial estate by the M25 near Upminster where he hid the case in some undergrowth to the side of a lane. He later deleted his contacts from Ms Bashir’s phone, lied to the police about her disappearance and made inquiries about travelling to Northern Ireland and Birmingham.

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The prosecution rejected his explanation as “elaborate and concocted” and asserted he had killed the young woman out of anger and jealousy. An examination of his phone revealed the extent of his obsession with Ms Bashir before and after she travelled to the UK, having repeatedly declared his love for her and reacted with shock after learning she had found someone else.

Police also found a large number of photographs of Ms Bashir, including collages of her image, on Mr Arslan’s phone, including some pictures which had love hearts added to them.

Muhammad Arslan has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for murder (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)Muhammad Arslan has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for murder (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)
Muhammad Arslan has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for murder (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire) | Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Mr Arslan admitted manslaughter on the first day of his trial but denied murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing Ms Bashir’s body, but a jury at the Old Bailey found him guilty of the charges on Wednesday (21 June).

In his evidence, the 27-year-old claimed that he had been friends with Ms Bashir since she was 11 and romance had followed, even though they could not meet openly for cultural reasons. He went on to admit it was a “fantasy” that she was his fiancee, but he still wanted to have a relationship.

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Judge Richard Marks KC sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for the murder and five years running concurrent for perverting the course of justice.

The judge told him: “I am satisfied…that your unrequited feelings for Hina boiled over and resulted in you taking hold of a facemask and forcing it into the back of her mouth which led to her collapse and ultimately to her death from asphyxiation.”

He added that Mr Arslan’s “prime motivation” was to save himself after the killing by embarking on a “campaign of lies” to conceal what he had done, “lying to all and sundry” before disposing of her body in a “shocking and callous manner”.

Judge Marks said it was apparent that Mr Arslan had been “madly in love” and “obsessed” with Ms Bashir, but his feelings were clearly “not reciprocated” by her. The judge also added that he was “extremely sceptical” of Mr Arslan’s claim that he had been sent naked photographs of Ms Bashir before he attacked her as “no such photos were ever recovered”.

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In an impact statement read out in court, Ms Bashir’s father Bashir Khan said “animals would treat my daughter better”, adding that Mr Arslan treated her in a “heinous and brutal way”. The heartbroken father spoke of how he and his family have been left traumatised by Ms Bashir’s death and how they loved their “beautiful, bubbly girl”.

Mr Arslan showed no emotion during the hearing and his defence barrister told the court there was “nothing to say” in mitigation.

During the trial, jurors heard how Mr Arslan and Ms Bashir grew up in the same village in the Faisalabad district of Pakistan, and from the age of 11, Ms Bashir had been befriended via text message by the then 17-year-old defendant, it was alleged. At one point, Mr Arslan declared: “How wonderful it is that I have found my princess in the house right next to mine.”

Ms Bashir went on to reject his advances and had a boyfriend in Pakistan and another after moving to the UK in November 2021 to study business management at Coventry University’s London campus, the court heard. But within months of her arrival, Mr Arslan had followed her, enrolling at the University of Essex for a masters degree in data science and applications and working part-time in a warehouse.

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The 27-year-old already had a masters degree in maths and quantum physics from the University of Faisalabad and had given up a job as the manager of a pharmacy to travel to the UK, jurors were told.

Following his conviction, detective chief inspector Dave Whellams, said: “Arslan was obsessed with Hina to the point that he told people they were engaged and said they should have children together. This relationship was completely in his mind.

“Our investigation showed that Arslan was unable to live with the fact Hina did not want to be with him. It was this rejection that tragically led to her death. Once Arslan had murdered Hina he did everything he could to cover his tracks but the evidence gathered by our team left no doubt in our mind as to his guilt. We are pleased the jury felt the same way and our thoughts now continue to remain with Hina’s family and friends who are dealing with an incomprehensible loss.”

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