A British Muslim, who married his second wife in a secret sharia ceremony, has been sentenced to life in jail for stabbing her to death in a ‘merciless’ attack.
Siraj Arif, 31, knifed Saiba Khatoon – who was 19-weeks pregnant – with such ferocity that two of the three kitchen knives he used snapped under the force of the blows in the row over their unborn baby.
Ms Khatoon’s seven-year-old son Farris, from a previous marriage, was woken by the noise and found his mother covered in blood, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Arif, from Smallbridge near Rochdale, had wed Ms Khatoon, 26, in a secret Islamic ceremony despite already being married for ten years.
His other wife, with whom he had three children, had given consent to the polygamous ceremony under sharia law and Ms Khatoon was said to be happy to be his ‘second wife’ while her family disapproved of their relationship.
When Farris discovered his mother in a pool of blood in her house in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and alerted neighbours, shouting: ‘My mum, my mum.’
She was found lying in the kitchen with a number of broken knives and their handles lying around her.
After the killing in May, Arif rang 999 and told police: ‘I had a fight, she picked a knife up and she told me she was going to kill my baby.
‘She told me either I’m going to kill the baby or kill you.
‘I ended up grabbing the knife and shoving it in her. That’s what I did.’
Tests revealed she had been stabbed 15 times.
In sentencing Judge Michael Henshell said: ‘The attack was not only severe but must have been sustained as shown by the three separate knives used as one knife broke it was replaced and the attack continued.
‘It was a merciless, sustained attack on a woman in her own home whilst her seven-year-old son was in the house.
‘We cannot be sure if he saw the attack but he saw the aftermath and the memory of that will live with him for most of his life, without a mother, who died in awful circumstances.’
Arif started his life in jail sentence today after he pleaded guilty to murder. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 21 years.
The court heard that Ms Khatoon had met Arif when she was a teenager and had a relationship with him which ended in 2003.
Ms Khatoon then met and married Dr Anwar in Pakistan. The couple returned to the UK in 2004 and Farris was born in 2005.
Kim Hollis QC, prosecuting, said: ‘All seemed to be well and happy on the surface but whilst Dr Anwar was in Pakistan she bumped into the defendant again in 2009 at a cousin’s wedding.
‘He was by now married and as some stage their relationship reignited.’
Dr Anwar discovered the affair and the couple divorced in 2010. He moved out and Arif began visiting her at home despite Ms Khatoon’s sisters Salma, Sarah Ali and Riswana disapproving of her relationship with him. Sarah Ali and a friend had even approached Arif’s first wife about their concerns.
But the lovers ‘married’ under sharia law although Ms Khatoon concealed the marriage from her family because of their disapproval.
On the night of the attack Arif said in one call to police at 2.19am said: ‘I know the police are looking for me, no one else is in danger.’
He then called again at 4.04 am and gave his name saying: ‘The police are looking for me. I think it has been a bit longer I might be running a bit late. Whatever has happened has happened, I don’t even know what has happened.’
He later broke down in tears to a work colleague telling him: ‘I’m finished I have done something wrong. I’m f***ed.’
He asked for a taxi to the police station but gave himself up when he spotted a police car en route.
In mitigation, defence counsel Anthony Hayden QC said: ‘He is a man who has worked hard all his life which makes what happened so much more difficult to understand.
‘When asked about the relationship with Saiba he said their relationship was fine and they would see each other for a few hours in the day.
‘They didn’t argue and there wasn’t violence and she didn’t mind at the prospect of being a second wife.
‘This day he was under considerable pressure and had been drinking and taking cannabis to relieve stress. It was out of character and he snapped.’
After the case Senior Investigating Officer Andy Tattersall from Greater Manchester Police said: ‘This was a brutal attack on a woman he professed to love.
‘She was pregnant with her second child and was looking forward to becoming a mother again. She leaves behind a son, who will now grow up without his mum.
‘Saiba was a popular woman and her murder has deeply affected all of her family and many friends.’
In a victim impact statement Sarah Ali said: ‘Saiba did not deserve to die.
‘Our happy life has been turned upside down by one violent act. Saiba will always be lover and never forgotten.
‘She had a lot of love to give and was taken away too soon.’