A man who murdered his niece and dumped her body on a wasteland has been sentenced to at least 25 years in jail.
Mohammed Taroos Khan, 53, killed Somaiya Begum, 20, in an attack at her home in Binnie Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire, on 25 June last year. He then dumped the 20-year-old student’s body on an industrial estate where it was found decomposed 11 days later.
Miss Begum had been living at the property with another of her uncles and her grandmother under the terms of a forced marriage protection order. Her father Mohammed Yaseen Khan had been attempting to force her to marry a cousin from Pakistan “by threat of violence”, a jury was told.
The judge at Bradford Crown Court refused to describe the crime as an “honour-killing” in response to “some appalling family agreement”. Sentencing Khan to life in prison on Wednesday (15 March), Mr Justice Garnham said: “It is not possible to identify a motive for this dreadful attack by you on an innocent young woman.
“It is said you did not support her forced marriage to the cousin in Pakistan. It is said you did not share the view of your brother, Yaseen, about the role of women or the obligation of Somaiya to obey her father. Moreover, it is pure speculation to consider whether this murder was part of some appalling family agreement.
“All that matters for present purposes is that the jury have found you guilty of the heinous crime of murder. I decline to speculate on your motive and I reject the prosecution’s suggestion that I should treat this as any form of so-called honour killing.”
‘Left to rot’
Repair man Khan was found guilty of murder on Tuesday as the judge outlined the callousness with which he disposed of his niece’s body.
Mr Justice Garnham told him: “You showed absolutely no respect for the dead body of your niece in the way you dumped it unceremoniously, wrapped in carpet and covered in scrap material, amongst rubbish on waste ground.
“You left it there to rot in the summer heat and, when it was found, Somaiya’s face had been eaten away by maggots. Inevitably the loss of this bright, vibrant young woman is felt acutely by other members of her family.”
The judge described Miss Begum as “an intelligent young woman of real spirit and courage” and recalled that her uncle Dawood Khan had referred to her in court as the “light of his life”.
The family of Miss Begum had already been split apart by a previous dispute before her father’s attempts to force her to marry when she was 16, the jury heard. The court was told that her body was so decomposed it was not possible to determine her cause of death but she had a metal spike embedded in her back.
Khan admitted perverting the course of justice, by disposing of the body and attempting to burn Miss Begum’s phone. He declined to give evidence in his defence during the trial but his barrister told the court that his brother – Miss Begum’s father, Yaseen Khan – had a clearer motive for murder and had subsequently fled to Pakistan using a one-way ticket.
The court heard that Miss Begum had lived under strict conditions as a teenager with her parents but, after she went to the police over the threat of forced marriage and secured the protection order, she was happy living in Binnie Street. The 20-year-old had been studying at Leeds Beckett University and supporting herself with a job as a carer, also in Leeds.
Detective Superintendent Marc Bowes, from West Yorkshire Police, said Miss Begum was killed in a “vicious and sustained attack” and Mr Khan’s “despicable” disposal of her body “can only be described as beyond belief”.
He said: “Somaiya was a bright young woman who was studying to get a degree, had a part-time job to support herself and was happy and content with home life.
“She had her whole life ahead of her and it was cruelly cut short by her uncle, someone who is meant to love, care and protect her. Khan subjected Somaiya to a horrendous attack for reasons only known to him.
“Khan went to extreme lengths to cover up his crime; he dumped her body in wasteland, showing complete disregard and disrespect for human life, with the hope that her body would never be found.”
Asked why he thought Khan had killed Miss Begum, the officer said: “I don’t think we will ever know. The only person that knows that is Khan himself.” Mr Bowes said he understands that a domestic homicide review is due to take place into the background to the murder.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Daniel Lee added: “Somaiya Begum was a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her. Her murder is a tragedy and Khan now faces the consequences for his appalling crimes. Women have the right to be safe and feel safe.”