Bradford Crown Court. July 2012. Julian Goose Q.C, leading Matthew Donkin, has successfully prosecuted Mohammed Naeem for the murder of Amjad Hussain. The murder was committed by taking a meat cleaver to the deceased’s home address and delivering repeated blows to his neck, cutting right through the vertebrae. The defendant then deliberately started a fire in the deceased’s house in an attempt to destroy all traces that he had been there, before blaming four innocent men as being responsible for the crime. On the 18th of July 2012 Mr. Justice Lindblom sentenced Naeem to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 25 years.
The defendant and the deceased had been friends for a long period of time prior to the killing. In November 2011 the deceased had loaned the defendant £1000 but it had never been repaid. As time went by the deceased became more and more frustrated and concerned that he had not been repaid the money. Ultimately, in the days before his death, the deceased had decided that his only option was to approach the defendant’s wife and father in law to tell them of the debt. The shame of this seems to have been too great for the defendant, and so he resolved to murder Amjad Hussain.
On the morning of the 12.1.12 the defendant left home, and at 11:24 in the morning he called the deceased, to check that he was at home and to wake him up. Very shortly afterwards Amjad Hussain fatally let Mohammed Naeem, the man he thought was his friend, into the house. Once inside, the defendant attacked by wielding three blows with the heavy meat cleaver to the deceased’s neck. One of the blows was struck with such force that it sliced clean through bone. Death was nearly instant. The expert interpretation of blood staining demonstrated that the deceased was hunched over, most likely seated on his sofa, at the time when one of the blows was struck. He was entirely defenceless and the post-mortem examination revealed no defensive marks or injuries and no sign of a struggle.
With the deceased lying dead, the defendant then started a fire in the living room using highly combustible materials, along with turning on the gas rings in the kitchen, no doubt with the intention of causing an explosion. Thankfully the gas was not ignited and there was no inferno. Neighbours in the adjoining houses noticed the smell and the smoke and raised the alarm.
The defendant had walked from the scene and his route was captured on CCTV cameras in the area. The cleaver was hidden in some thick undergrowth along the route that he took, although it was not until some two months later that it was found. The clothes that he was shown to be wearing he disposed of, and they have never been recovered.
At the outset, the identity of the killer was not known to the investigating officers, but the defendant had begun to tell a number of lies and misleading accounts to the police and other people and so focus turned upon him. In particular he planted a false trail about a call he had received from the deceased on the morning of his death in which the deceased had apparently said he was going to meet some people from Keighley. This call never took place. In addition the defendant was giving false accounts about the debt he owed to the deceased.
When the defendant was arrested he simply denied the offence. He said that he was at home the whole time looking after his son. He repeated the false account about people from Keighley. He insisted that the clothing he had been wearing was still at home.
By the time of the trial, the defendant could no longer rely upon this story, as mobile telephone cell-site evidence and the CCTV showed that he had not been at home, but had in fact made his way from a shop on Bolton Road, Bradford, through Peel Park and to the deceased’s home address, outside which he made the fateful telephone call at 11:24.
The defendant therefore changed his account and named four other men as being responsible. He said that they had captured him, tortured him and sexually assaulted him. They had taken his clothes and the only reason that he had not told the police this before was that the men had threatened his life, and the lives of his wife and children.
Those four men were all witnesses for the prosecution during the trial and the defence case was put to them. The jury heard that some of the men had previous convictions for drugs and firearms offences. The jury also heard evidence that one of the men had been accused of a murder in Pakistan. After careful research and investigation during the course of the trial, with the assistance of the Punjabi authorities, it was clarified that this was not in fact true.
The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict after deliberating for less than a day. The following day, Mr. Justice Lindblom passed the sentence, describing the crime as a brutal murder, committed by the use of a ‘fearful’ weapon. It was ‘no doubt premeditated and carefully planned’.
What had begun as a challenging case as the evidence against the defendant was entirely circumstantial, became considerably more complicated once the new defence had been revealed. It required urgent reviews of disclosure, the obtaining of further evidence and dealing with that during trial, issues of immunity from prosecution and joint co-operation with the police authorities in Pakistan. For parts of the case, assistance was provided from the Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, the legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions and senior police officials in Pakistan.
By Matthew Donkin