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Tuesday, September 29, 1998 Published at 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK


Juror speaks out over conviction

Zoora Shah's supporters have maintained her innocence

The foreman of the jury which convicted a woman of murder has said that evidence not seen at the trial could cast doubt on the verdict.

BBC correspondent Danny Shaw on the background to the case
The juror has called for a review of the case of Zoora Shah, from Bradford, who is serving a minimum 20-year sentence in Durham Prison for poisoning her former lover, Mohammed Azam, with arsenic.

At a failed appeal in April, Shah said that she suffered years of sexual abuse, a defence not heard at the original trial in 1993 because she thought it would bring shame on her.

But the judges described her evidence that this caused depression at the time of the killing as "not capable of belief".

The juror casts doubt on Shah's conviction
The juror, who does not want to be named, is concerned that further evidence of abuse and beatings was not heard.

He said: "Has there been an injustice? Well, in any situation where information comes to light after the event which leads you to believe that there is the remotest possibility that a different decision could have been made, then I'd obviously have to say yes."

He is satisfied with the verdict he and his colleagues reached, given the evidence they had at the time.

But he wanted to see Shah in the witness box and to hear from medical experts about her state of mind.

New investigation possible

Solicitor Mark Haslam on the possible impact of the comments
Mark Haslam, from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, told BBC Radio 5 Live that the news might provide an opportunity for the conviction to be looked at again.

It follows a similar pattern to the Bridgewater case, where murder convictions were overturned.

He said: "There are key areas that need to be established, the main being they must find some new evidence to enable the conviction to be looked at again.

"The next step is to take it to the Criminal Cases Review Commission."

But any review would take several months.

Shah has already served five of the 20 years she has been told she must spend in prison. She will be in her sixties when she is eligible for release.

Judges 'have no idea'

Shah's 24-year-old daughter, Naseem Shah, said the judges in her mother's case failed to understand her ordeal.

"The judges have no idea. They're in a world of their own.

"They don't face everyday dilemmas like normal people do - the working class," she said.

Pragna Patel, from the Southall Black Sisters pressure group for Asian woman, is campaigning to have Shah's sentence reduced.

She said: "This woman is not a serial killer.

"It was a domestic killing, a killing borne out of despair and depression and for that reason is unlikely to be repeated.

"In the interests of the welfare of her children it is vitally important that she does not have to serve the rest of her life in prison, which is what the 20-year tariff virtually amounts to."

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