Four members of a family have been found guilty of murdering a 21-year-old pregnant woman they thought was possessed by evil spirits.
Following a 12-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Naila Mumtaz’s husband, Mohammed Tauseef Mumtaz, 25, his parents, Zia Ul-Haq and Salma Aslam, both aged 51, and his brother-in-law, Hammad Hussan, 24, were all found guilty of killing her.
Jurors heard that Mumtaz, who was accused of smothering his six-months pregnant wife, told police she tried to strangle herself and may have been ‘possessed’ by an evil spirit.
The court was told that he claimed his wife’s death was ‘like a suicide’ and that he had been ‘similarly possessed’ at the city’s coroner’s court after her death.
All four defendants denied murdering Ms Mumtaz at her home in Craythorne Avenue, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, in the early hours of July 8, 2009.
Wendy Bounds, a lawyer from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service complex casework unit, said: ‘Naila Mumtaz, a kind-hearted and beautiful young woman living in Pakistan with her parents, agreed to enter into an arranged marriage with the defendant, Mohammed Tauseef Mumtaz.
‘She was aware that he suffered from a physical disability, but she was not put off by his appearance, taking the kind-hearted view that all living things had the same value.
‘However, the jury today found that her husband and his family did not share her values.
‘Naila was six months pregnant and living with the defendants in Birmingham when on 8 July 2009 the family made a 999 call for an ambulance to attend.
‘All efforts to revive her by the paramedics and at the hospital failed, and she and her unborn baby died.
‘She was subsequently found to have suffered injuries and the jury had to decide whether she had been assaulted, smothered and suffocated by her husband, his parents and her brother-in-law or whether, as they maintained, she was possessed by an evil spirit which took her life.’
During his opening speech to the jury, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC quoted details of Mumtaz’s account to police after Ms Mumtaz’s death, saying: ‘He said she started to grab her own face and was screaming in anger.
‘She tried to bite her mother’s hand. The whole family were trying to hold her down.
‘It was like she couldn’t remember who we were. She suffocated herself by putting her hand in her mouth and she tried to strangle herself.
‘It was, he said, more like a suicide. He said it was possible that Naila had been possessed by a djinn spirit and said he himself about a month before Naila died had been similarly possessed, and again possessed at the coroner’s court after her death.’
In his account to police, Mumtaz maintained that injuries to his wife’s body were self-inflicted and claimed that a person was present at the house praying “to get the spirit out of her”.
Ms Bounds added: ‘This was not an easy case to bring before the court as it involved evidence from both the UK and Pakistan, and ensuring that the jury understood that although there were complex cultural beliefs which underpinned the defence case, there was evidence that the defendants had all given untruthful accounts as to what had taken place and their roles in the death of Naila.
‘Sadly, Naila died before the help that is available from the police and the prosecution team was accessed.
‘This case demonstrates that it is possible to achieve justice for girls in Naila’s situation who are far away from their family, unable to speak English and with no one to turn to for help.
‘Our thoughts are with Naila’s family at this time and we hope that today’s conviction brings some comfort to them.’