Three years ago, 21-year-old Naila Mumtaz and her unborn child were murdered by her husband and his family, who claim she committed suicide because she was possessed by an "evil spirit."
On Monday, Mumtaz's husband, Mohammed Tauseef Mumtaz, 25, and his parents, Zia Ul-Haq and Salma Aslam, both 51, as well as his brother-in-law, Hammad Hussan, 24, were all found guilty of killing her.
"Naila was almost six months pregnant with her unborn son when they were killed in their home where they should both have been safe, protected and secure," the young woman's family said in a statement after the verdict. "Naila and her unborn child's hopes, dreams and opportunities for the future were so cruelly taken away."
Naila Mumtaz died in a British hospital on July 8, 2009, after she was found "grey, ashen and lifeless" in the bedroom of her Birmingham home. Efforts by paramedics to revive Mumtaz had been unsuccessful, police said.
An autopsy of Mumtaz revealed she and her unborn child had died as a result of smothering.
According to Prosecutor Christopher Hotten, Mohammed Mumtaz told police that injuries to his wife's body were self-inflicted. Mumtaz said that a person was present at the house and praying "to get the spirit out of her," while his parents and his brother-in-law tried to prevent his wife from harming herself.
The spirit that Mumtaz said had likely possessed his wife was a "Jinn." According to Islamic mythology, a Jinn is a supernatural creature that can be good, evil or neutrally benevolent. The spirit is mentioned in the 72nd chapter of the Quran.
Mumtaz told police his wife resisted efforts to help her. He said she "started to grab her own face" and screamed.
"It was like she couldn't remember who we were," Mumtaz said, according to Hotten. "She suffocated herself by putting her hand in her mouth and she tried to strangle herself."
Mumtaz described his wife's death as a suicide and said he too had once been "similarly possessed" by an evil Jinn spirit about a month prior to Naila's death.
The evil spirit alibi did not sit well with police and, following a lengthy investigation by the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Mumtaz and his participating family members were charged with murder.
"It is unthinkable that those who she was closest to would take her life in the belief that she had been possessed by evil spirits," West Midlands police detective Inspector Simon Astle said.
Naila Mumtaz's family has also said they did not believe spirits were involved in their daughter's death.
"They conspired to inflict their supposed perceptions of ... evil spirits on to Naila to disguise their violence leading to her death," they said of the defendants. "They were determined to enforce their will and status to manipulate and control Naila and her family. This was in an attempt to annihilate their reputation and credibility in the events leading up to her death, after her death and in court."
When the murder case finally went to trial, the defendants admitted being present when Mumtaz died, but denied involvement in her death.
"Your task is to decide was she possessed by evil spirits that took her life, as the defendants suggest, an unknown illness or, as the prosecution claims, was she assaulted and smothered," Hotten said at the start of the trial.
In court it was revealed that Naila Mumtaz had arrived in the UK in 2008, after an arranged marriage to her husband in Pakistan the previous year.
Wendy Bounds, a lawyer from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service Complex Casework Unit, described Naila Mumtaz as a "kind-hearted and beautiful young woman."
After 12 weeks of testimony, the jury sided with the prosecution and found all four defendants guilty of murder. Mohammed Tauseef Mumtaz reportedly collapsed when the verdict was read.
All four defendants will be sentenced in Birmingham Crown Court at a later date. They each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"Even now the perpetrators still accept no responsibility and have no remorse," the young woman's family said.
The family also said they are grateful to police and prosecutors and are looking forward to finally laying their loved one to rest.
"Our family [has] waited three long painful years for justice. Now [we have the] unenviable task of collecting her and her unborn child's bodies to take home to Pakistan so that they can be put to rest and that the family may now begin to get some closure. Naila will always be in our hearts and prayers and we hope her memory will live on by bringing about awareness of the issues surrounding her tragic death."
The family has created a Facebook memorial page at Facebook.com/nailamumtaz21tribute.
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