Killed by her brother and cousin ... for falling in love with an asylum seeker

THE brother and the cousin of a young woman who fell in love with the "wrong man" were given life sentences yesterday for her "barbaric" honour killing.

Samaira Nazir, a 25-year-old graduate and recruitment consultant, was stabbed 18 times in a savage attack in front of other family members - including two nieces.

The Old Bailey was told she was killed because she had fallen in love with an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and rejected suitors her family wanted her to marry.

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The jury heard the Pakistani family disapproved of Salman Mohammed, accusing him of being after their money.

Miss Nazir was attacked at the family home in Abbotts Road, Southall, west London, in April last year by her brother, Azhar, 30, and their cousin, Imran Mohammed, 17.

The judge, Christopher Moss, told them: "This was a barbaric crime. She suffered a brutal, gruesome and horrific death."

Nazir, a greengrocer, was yesterday jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years.

Imran Mohammed was detained for a minimum term of ten years.

Mr Moss said: "Samaira Nazir was an accomplished young woman who was murdered by members of her family because she insisted on marrying someone deemed unsuitable."

The attack was witnessed in the family home by two young nieces, who were spattered with blood.

When Miss Nazir tried to escape, she was dragged back into the house by her brother.

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She died after being stabbed 18 times and having her throat cut by Imran Mohammed, a youth with low intellect, who had "carried out the sentence of death passed".

The judge told Nazir: "You were her judge and jury, although you may not have been alone.

"You claimed to have loved your sister, but were guilty of orchestrating her murder."

The judge lifted a ban on identifying Imran Mohammed, a distant cousin of Miss Nazir, who treated him like another brother.

Miss Nazir's businessman father, who had also been arrested and bailed for the killing, fled to Pakistan and was claimed by the family to have died there.

Outside the court, Detective Inspector John Reid said: "This was a brutal and appalling murder of a girl because she fell in love with a man that her family did not approve of."

Nazir Afzal, area director of the Crown Prosecution Service, added: "Samaira was murdered because she loved the wrong person, in her family's eyes. In that sense, it was an 'honour killing' to protect the perceived status of the family, to mark their disapproval.

"We hope that Samaira's death and the investigation and prosecution that followed will deter others who may wish to harm their own family members because of practices that are as tragic as they are outdated."

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The court was told that Nazir tried to pin the blame on Imran Mohammed after police found Miss Nazir in what was described as a bloodbath.

Sally Howes, QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "She was murdered in her own home where she bled to death following a horrific attack during which she was beaten and had multiple stab wounds.

"The defendants acted together by stabbing Samaira and holding on to her to prevent her escaping."

Miss Nazir had met Salman Mohammed in 2000, shortly after he arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry and found his way to her brother's shop in Southall Broadway.

The two men became friends, and Mr Mohammed fell in love with Miss Nazir after being befriended by the rest of the family and setting up phone card stalls.

Ms Howes told the court: "They fell in love and wanted to marry, but realised their relationship would not be met with approval by the Nazir family. They kept their relationship a secret.

"Samaira approached the subject of her marriage with her brother. His reaction was one of anger. The situation reached crisis point."

Nazir claimed that Mr Mohammed was "only after the family money".

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He had told Miss Nazir's boyfriend on the telephone: "We can get you anywhere if you get married, even if you are not in this country."

The couple had last seen each other about an hour before Miss Nazir was killed, when they tried to talk to her mother at a relative's home.

But her mother had refused, and she and her daughter arrived home in an angry mood.

Neighbours heard cries for help from the house and at one point, Miss Nazir ran to her car but was followed by her brother, said Ms Howes.

When police arrived, they found Samaira dead, slumped in the hall, surrounded by blood. A silk scarf had been tied tightly round her neck.

No chance to defend themselves when family feels shamed

STATISTICS on honour killings are rare, as the murders often occur in a family home and go unreported. However, an adviser to the government in Pakistan said there were 450 honour killings in 2002 alone.

Women who refuse forced marriages or marry for love are the most common victim of honour killings - so-called because the perpetrators believed they are protecting the "honour" of their family. The practice is most common in countries following strict Islamic law. Even women who are raped may not be spared as it is most commonly they, not the rapists, who are punished for violating family "honour". A UN report found rape victims in Turkey can be forced by their own families to marry rapists - or risk being killed in the name of family honour.

Many women are condemned to death by so-called family courts. Often the woman is given no chance to explain or defend herself.

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Campaigners attempting to stamp out honour killing say it is increasingly being seen in the West, affecting immigrants torn between the more liberal society they have grown up in and the traditions their parents want to maintain.