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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Bride's snub led to murder
Two cousins are facing life sentences after being convicted of murdering a young bride on her wedding day, BBC News Online asks what lay behind the tragedy.

It was meant to have been the happiest day of her life but for Sahjda Bibi her wedding day ended horrifically.

The 21-year-old was stabbed 22 times by her cousin as she prepared to marry the man she loved.

Sahja Bibi
Sahjda Bibi was stabbed 22 times as she prepared for her wedding

The frenzied attack took place in an upstairs bedroom of the family home in January as friends and relatives gathered to celebrate a traditional Muslim wedding.

Screams shattered the peace of the Alum Rock suburb of Birmingham as Rafaqat Hussain repeatedly stabbed her.

The motive for the murder remains unclear, but police think Rafaqat Hussain was unhappy Sahjda had refused to marry his own cousin a few months earlier.

Flight to Pakistan

Sahjda's fiancÚ, 29-year-old Zafar Mughal, and his family, who were not from Birmingham, had been delayed getting to the wedding, which was set for 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

The stabbing happened at 1.45pm, not long after the groom arrived.

Mr Mughal was injured in the garden as he struggled to stop Rafaqat Hussain leaving.

Sahjda Bibi's home in Wright Road, Alum Rock, Birmingham
Guests heard screaming as Sahjda Bibi was stabbed in an upstairs bedroom

As Rafaqat Hussain fled the house and the country with the help of his cousin Tafarak Hussain, 25, police arrived to a scene of devastation, with the bride dead from injuries inflicted with a nine-inch kitchen knife.

Detective Inspector Adrian Atherley, who led the investigation, said: "There was a tremendous amount of force used, some of the injuries to that the poor woman had caused the knife to go completely through her body.

"It really must have been a horrific and vile attack on an innocent woman preparing for her wedding day."

Opposition expected

Sahjda had first met her fiancÚ at a family wedding in 2001. They had conducted their romance in secret, but eventually told their families.

After some time her parents agreed she could marry Mr Mughal, a divorced father-of-one.

Her parents expected some opposition from the extended family but nobody expected the fury that would lead to her death.

Sahjda, described by neighbours as "pretty and lovely", led a quiet and sheltered life, only really coming into contact with the women she made dresses for.

But her death sent shockwaves through the local community.

Maneeza Begum's children grew up playing with Sahjda Bibi.

International manhunt

She said: "This shouldn't have happened. Everyone was worried after it happened, it shouldn't have happened on her wedding day."

An international manhunt began as police suspected Rafaqat Hussain, 38, had fled the country.

Tafarak Hussain's trial heard how the older man ran out of the house after stabbing both Sahjda and her groom, and jumped into a BMW driven by his cousin, who had been waiting outside the house.

The plan involved dropping Rafaqat Hussain at a pre-booked taxi some miles away, which then drove him to Heathrow Airport, where he boarded a plane to Pakistan.

Two months later he was caught re-entering the UK on a flight from Dubai.

He was thought to have been returning to see his three children in Camberley, Surrey.

Tafarak Hussain was convicted of murder on Thursday.

If people commit these sort of crimes they can't hide behind their religion or culture
Detective Inspector Adrian Atherley
Prosecutors said his role in planning the murder and escape was crucial.

Rafaqat Hussian had pleaded guilty to murder earlier and both men will be sentenced on Monday.

'No honour'

Detective Inspector Adrian Atherley said: "It was completely callous and cowardly attack.

"'Honour killing' is a new phrase and this does have the hallmarks of this, but there is no honour in this.

"This man has acted in a very cowardly manner to attack a woman on her wedding day with such force to kill her.

"If people commit these sort of crimes they can't hide behind their religion or culture.

"A person's right to life is the most important and the police will prosecute these people and pursue them which is what we have done. And we will pursue people who assist in these sort of things which is why Tafarak has been convicted."




SEE ALSO:
Cousin accused of bride murder
06 Oct 03  |  West Midlands
Pair deny bride's murder
21 May 03  |  England
Appeal to find dead bride's cousin
13 Jan 03  |  England
Bride stabbed to death
13 Jan 03  |  England


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