Monday May 27, 2024

Fatal obsession: Student receives life sentence for killing female colleague

When Hina Bashir visited Arslan's shared flat in east London, in July last year, he forced floral mask into her mouth

By Murtaza Ali Shah
June 24, 2023
21-year-old Hina Bashir. — Provided
21-year-old Hina Bashir. — Provided

A Faisalabad student who suffocated one of his female colleagues with a face mask and then dumped her body in undergrowth inside a suitcase has been jailed. 

When Hina Bashir visited Muhammad Arslan's shared flat in Ilford, east London, in July last year, he forced a floral mask into her mouth.

In his defense, he claimed that he had only intended to quiet her after confronting her over naked photos of her he were sent, but the prosecution rejected this explanation and stated that he had killed her out of jealousy and anger.

Arslan admitted manslaughter on the first day of his trial but denied murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing Hina's body. But, the jury at the Old Bailey found him guilty of the charges.

In his evidence, Arslan claimed that he had been friends with Hina since she was 11 and romance had followed, even though they could not meet openly for cultural reasons.

He admitted it was a “fantasy” that she was his fiancee but he still wanted to have a relationship.

Judge Richard Marks KC sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for the murder and five years running concurrently for perverting the course of justice.

The judge told Arslan: “I am satisfied…that your unrequited feelings for Hina boiled over and resulted in you taking hold of a facemask and forcing it into the back of her mouth which led to her collapse and ultimately to her death from asphyxiation.”

He added that Arslan’s “prime motivation” was to save himself after killing Hina, embarking on a “campaign of lies” to conceal what he had done “lying to all and sundry” before disposing of her body in a “shocking and callous manner”.

Judge Marks said it was apparent that Arslan had been “madly in love” and “obsessed” with Hina, feelings which he added were clearly “not reciprocated”.

The judge told Arslan he was “extremely sceptical” of his claim that he had been sent naked photographs of Hina before he attacked her as “no such photos were ever recovered”.

Hina's father, Bashir Khan, asserted that “animals would treat my daughter better”. “He treated her in a heinous and brutal way,” Khan told Geo News.

The father spoke of how Hina's death has traumatised his family and how they loved their “beautiful, bubbly girl”.

Arslan showed no emotion during the hearing and his defence barrister told the court there was “nothing to say” in mitigation.

Six jurors returned to the Old Bailey to listen to the sentencing.

These jurors heard during the trial how Arslan and Hina grew up in the same village in the Faisalabad district of Pakistan.

From the age of 11, Hina had been befriended via text message by the then 17-year-old defendant, it was alleged.

At one point, Arslan declared: “How wonderful it is that I have found my princess in the house right next to mine.”

Hina went on to reject his advances and had a boyfriend in Pakistan and another after moving to the UK in November 2021 to study business management at Coventry University’s London campus, the court heard.

Within months of her arrival, Arslan had followed her, enrolling at the University of Essex for a masters degree in data science and applications and working part-time in a warehouse, jurors heard.

Arslan already had a masters degree in mathematics and quantum physics from the University of Faisalabad and had given up a job as the manager of a pharmacy to travel to the UK, jurors were told.

On the evening of July 11 last year, Hina and two female friends had visited Arslan’s flat to collect some belongings she had left there while moving.

When Hina did not come out, her friends had to leave without her and the student was never seen alive again, jurors were told.

Having killed her, Arslan put her body into a suitcase in the bedroom he shared with a friend and stored it there overnight.

Arslan then spent hours trawling through her private messages and photographs on her mobile phone, the court was told.

The prosecution said Arslan set off from his house the next morning dragging a suitcase containing Hina's body, travelling to an industrial estate by the M25 near Upminster where he hid the suitcase in some undergrowth to the side of a lane.

After the killing, Arslan had deleted his contacts from Hina's phone, lied to police about her disappearance, and made inquiries about travelling to Northern Ireland and Birmingham.

An examination of his phone revealed the extent of his obsession with Hina before and after she travelled to the UK.

He had repeatedly declared his love for her and reacted with shock on learning she had found someone else.

Police found a large number of photographs of Hina, including collages of her images, on Arslan’s phone. Love hearts had been added to some pictures.

Following Arslan’s conviction, detective chief inspector Dave Whellams, said: “Arslan was obsessed with Hina to the point that he told people they were engaged and said they should have children together. This relationship was completely in his mind.

“Our investigation showed that Arslan was unable to live with the fact Hina did not want to be with him. It was this rejection that tragically led to her death. Once Arslan had murdered Hina he did everything he could to cover his tracks but the evidence gathered by our team left no doubt in our minds as to his guilt. We are pleased the jury felt the same way and our thoughts now continue to remain with Hina’s family and friends who are dealing with an incomprehensible loss.”