A Luton woman who murdered her sister after starting an affair with her brother-in-law has been jailed for life with a minimum of 22 years behind bars.
Sabah Khan, 27, brutally murdered her older sister Saima, 34, on May 23 last year because she wanted Saima’s husband Hafeez Rehman for herself.
Khan lured her sister Saima to their home at Overstone Road in Luton as the rest of the family attended a funeral, and went on to stab her 68 times in a frenzied attack before staging a burglary.
Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Judge Christopher Moss QC told her: “It was your intention that your sister should die. The attack was brutal and prolongued.”
The court was told that even after Saima had died, evidence showed the younger sister had tugged at clothing to inflict even deeper knife wounds.
Saima’s family returned to the house to find her lifeless body in a pool of blood. The sound of their screams rang out in the street and alerted neighbours.
Today at the Central criminal court in London, Sabah Khan appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty earlier this week to the murder of her sister.
Prosecutor Jane Bickerstaff QC told the court that Sabah lived at the Overstone Road address with her sister Saima and brother-in-law Hafeez Rehman, along with their four young children. Also under the same roof were the sisters’ elderly parents and another brother.
The court heard that Sabah Khan “had been in a sexual relationship” with her sister’s husband Hafeez for around four years and had at one time even had an abortion.
On May 23, 2016, while the rest of the family attended a funeral, Saima left the house at around 10.15pm to go to work but, half an hour later, she received a text from her sister that one of the children was crying and she should come home quickly.
A neighbour’s CCTV system captured the moment Saima arrived outside her home and entered at 11.07pm.
Miss Bickerstaff said “On entering the house, Saima turned on the downstairs hallway lights and 45 seconds later, the lights went off, so the downstairs was in darkness.”
The prosecutor said that had been the moment when Sabah Khan struck as she waited in the darkness to carry out the “brutal attack.”
Miss Bickerstaff said “She lay in wait for her sister and 45 seconds after Saima got into the house, she was murdered in the hallway.
“There is no evidence that she ever managed to leave that area by the front door. It was a vicious and sustained attack.”
The prosecutor said that in the days that followed, Sabah Khan maintained her story to police officers that an intruder had killed her sister in a botched burglary.
But seven days after the murder, a forensic officer discovered a black binbag in the defendant’s bedroom which contained blood-stained clothing, the knife and the gloves she had worn.
She was arrested and told police that she had loved her sister and was shocked to be accused. But Sabah’s mobile phone was examined and text messages were found referring to her sister as “a bitch”.
In one message to Hafeez, the younger sister said: “That bitch you constantly text 24/7, but me you don’t have time.”
In another message two months before the murder, she wrote: “I don’t know why you are treating me like this, I don’t know why you don’t respect me? Nothing in the world can change my feelings for you.”
Police officers unpicked the case and found that Sabah had spent months researching online ways to kill someone including poisoning, hiring a killer and buying poisonous snakes. Sabah paid substantial sums of money seeking online advice on how to rid herself of her sister.
On the night of the killing, Sabah also took to the internet to search ‘how long does a Muslim funeral take’, clearly identifying her window of opportunity.
Forensic evidence undermined Sabah’s story by placing her close to the glass in the back door at the time it was smashed. Tiny fragments were identified on the clothing she had discarded in the bin bag next to her bed, together with the murder weapon.
Just days before the murder, CCTV captured her purchasing the murder weapon from a supermarket. She kept it in its packaging until using it to inflict the horrific injuries .
An impact statement made by Hafeez Rehman was read out in court, in which he said: “My wife Saima was a lovely, caring and kind wife and mother. I feel completely ashamed about my affair with Sabah.
“I know the affair should have stopped but I never imagined anything like this would happen. Saima was such a good mum. I try my best with the children but I can never replace their mum.”
He said his eldest daughter would never be able to understand why their auntie had killed her mother.
He added: “Not a day goes by that I don’t regret my affair with Sabah.”
Passing sentence, Judge Moss told Sabah Khan: “Not only did you intend your sister to die, but this was no spontaneous event. You had been planning her death for weeks and had paid no less than £5,000 to a fixer in Pakistan.”
“You enticed her to come home from work so that the killing could be carried out. The killing was astonishingly brutal” said the judge.
After the hearing, DCI Adam Gallop from the Beds, Cambs and Herts major crime unit, who was the senior investigating officer, said: “The exceptional work of all involved from first responders through to the search teams and painstaking forensic work ensured there was no stone left unturned.
“This was a brutal act of jealousy. It was not a case of honour killing, nor was this the burglary that Sabah Khan tried so hard to create. Sabah wanted her sister’s life. She wanted her children and her husband. Hearing the news that they were planning to leave the family home together was the final straw and she took her sister’s life in a bitter envy.
“Everyone working on this case has struggled to comprehend the extent of the force used and injuries sustained at the hands of this young woman’s own sister.
“These actions can only be fuelled by a deep level of hatred; hatred that had been concealed from the rest of the family.
“I am pleased that the sentence reflects the pre-meditated actions that cut short a young woman’s life and deprived four young children of growing up with their mother.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in bringing the case to resolution, and the local residents and community for their patience in this complex and difficult investigation.”