An man has been jailed for life for suffocating a 21-year-old woman with a face mask in a jealous rage before dumping her body in undergrowth in a suitcase.
Muhammad Arslan, 27, forced a floral patterned mask into the mouth Hina Bashir after she visited his shared flat in Ilford, in July last year.
Judge Richard Marks KC sentenced Arslan to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for the murder and five years running concurrent for perverting the course of justice.
In his victim impact statement, Ms Bashir’s father, said “animals would treat my daughter better”.
“He treated her in a heinous and brutal way,” Mr Khan said in the statement that was read out in court.
He said Ms Bashir’s death has traumatised his family, describing her as a “beautiful, bubbly girl”.
Arslan had claimed he had only meant to quieten Ms Bashir after he confronted her over naked photographs of her that he had been sent.
The prosecution rejected his explanation as “elaborate and concocted” and asserted he had killed her out of anger and jealousy.
Arslan admitted manslaughter on the first day of his trial but denied murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing Ms Bashir’s body.
A jury at the Old Bailey found him guilty of the charges on Wednesday.
In his evidence, Arslan claimed that he had been friends with Ms Bashir since she was 11 and romance had followed, even though they could not meet openly for cultural reasons.
He admitted it was a “fantasy” that she was his fiancee but he still wanted to have a relationship.
The judge told Arslan: “I am satisfied…that your unrequited feelings for Hina boiled over and resulted in you taking hold of a facemask and forcing it into the back of her mouth which led to her collapse and ultimately to her death from asphyxiation.”
He added that Arslan’s “prime motivation ”was to save himself after killing Ms Bashir, embarking on a “campaign of lies” to conceal what he had done “lying to all and sundry” before disposing her body in a “shocking and callous manner”.
Arslan showed no emotion during the hearing and his defence barrister told the court there was “nothing to say” in mitigation.
Arslan and Ms Bashir grew up in the same village in the Faisalabad district of Pakistan.
From the age of 11, Ms Bashir had been befriended via text message by the then 17-year-old defendant, it was alleged.
At one point, Arslan declared: “How wonderful it is that I have found my princess in the house right next to mine.”
Despite Ms Bashir rejecting his advances, Arslan had followed her to the UK, enrolling at the University of Essex for a masters degree in data science and applications and working part-time in a warehouse, jurors heard.
Arslan already had masters degree in maths and quantum physics from the University of Faisalabad and had given up a job as the manager of a pharmacy to travel to the UK, jurors were told.
On the evening of July 11 last year, Ms Bashir and two female friends had visited Arslan’s flat to collect some belongings she had left there while moving.
When Ms Bashir did not come out, her friends had to leave without her and the student was never seen alive again, jurors were told.
Having killed her, Arslan put her body into a suitcase in the bedroom he shared with a friend and stored it there overnight.
Arslan then spent hours trawling through her private messages and photographs on her mobile phone, the court was told.
The prosecution said Arslan set off from his house the next morning dragging a suitcase containing Ms Bashir’s body, travelling to an industrial estate by the M25 near Upminster where he hid the suitcase in some undergrowth to the side of a lane.
After the killing, Arslan had deleted his contacts from Ms Bashir’s phone, lied to police about Ms Bashir’s disappearance and made inquiries about travelling to Northern Ireland and Birmingham.
An examination of his phone revealed the extent of his obsession with Ms Bashir before and after she travelled to the UK.
Following Arslan’s conviction, detective chief inspector Dave Whellams, said: “We are pleased the jury felt the same way and our thoughts now continue to remain with Hina’s family and friends who are dealing with an incomprehensible loss.”
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