Lancashire

Affair led to Blackburn 'honour killing' arson deaths

A secret affair between a married woman and a man she met at a wedding acted as the catalyst for the murders of Abdullah and Aysha Mohammed.

Four men have been jailed for life for murdering the couple, whose Blackburn home was set on fire in a case of mistaken identity in what was intended to be a so-called honour killing.

Mr Justice Henriques, sentencing at Preston Crown Court, said Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, Habib Iqbal, 25, Sadek Miah, 23, and Mohammed Miah, 19, had carried out a "perverted and wicked act".

The court heard that when rumours first surfaced about a relationship between married Hafija Gorji and Mo Ibrahim, Mr Ibrahim was asked to swear on the Koran that they were just good friends.

Mr Ibrahim visited the woman's family in Blackburn to deliver the oath - hiding the fact he was actually in a relationship with her.

Had he been telling the truth, the Mohammeds might still be alive.

Det Supt Neil Hunter, who led the investigation into the killings, said Mo Ibrahim had already ignored threats from Mrs Gorji's deeply religious brother, Hisamuddin Ibrahim (no relation).

He believes her boyfriend's decision to effectively lie to the family sparked the 21-year-old's anger - and ultimately orphaned three children.

"Indirect action became direct action and Hisamuddin Ibrahim then recruited Sadek Miah, Junaid [Mohammed] Miah and Habib Iqbal to come up from London and torch the house. Tragically, they chose the wrong house."

Both Hafija Gorji and her sister, Rizwana, had married their cousins, with both men travelling over from their home village in India to set up new lives in Lancashire.

Neither was said to be an arranged marriage, but problems arose early in Hafija's relationship and in January 2009 a major argument with her husband, Jamal, spilled over into violence, she told Preston Crown Court.

He had wanted her to play a more traditional role and bear children immediately - she wanted neither.

From then on the couple merely kept up appearances, sleeping in separate rooms.

Three months later she met Mo Ibrahim at a wedding in Manchester.

They exchanged text messages and before long had embarked on a secret affair.

Image caption The Mohammeds suffered fatal injuries in the fire at their home in Blackburn

In September 2009, her husband discovered a text message which read: "I want to hold you in my arms."

During her brother's trial, the jury was read excerpts of a transcript from a call she made to police, in which she told the operator her parents "had just found out".

"They are still angry. Now they know where he lives, I'm really scared. I'm afraid they might do something."

Despite the evidence, Mrs Gorji insisted she had meant her husband's parents and denied that her family had targeted her boyfriend.

She was in the process of going through a divorce, which was culturally and religiously accepted in her community, she added.

During her evidence, Mrs Gorji claimed no-one had ever threatened her or warned her and Mo Ibrahim to stay away from each other.

But Lancashire police were not convinced. And through interviews with Mohammed Miah, Sadek Miah and Habib Iqbal a picture of an angry brother with murderous intent emerged.

The jury did not believe Mrs Gorji's account that no-one knew of her adultery and convicted her brother of ordering the men to kill Mo Ibrahim.

They intended to set a fire at his home in London Road, Blackburn, while he was asleep in the early hours of 21 October - but poured petrol through the wrong house, 20 doors down.

It was a painstaking investigation carried out by Lancashire Police, not helped by the wall of silence that met them during their inquiries in east London.

"We've had little co-operation from any of the family members," Mr Hunter said.

"Perhaps they want to bury their head in the sand and not appreciate or accept that their sons have committed the most horrible and heinous and evil offence.

"Do I think people know that it went tragically wrong down in London? I think some of the friends... they probably know that it went tragically wrong.

"Were they prepared to share that with police? I don't think they were. Was that out of fear or divided loyalties? I suppose we'll never know that."

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