One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Verdicts In Watford Man Murder Trial
Five men have been found guilty of a series of offences in connection with the kidnap and murder of a man from Watford.
41-year-old Mahmood Ahmad was forced in to a car outside his home in Radlett Road in Watford in March last year and was later tortured killed at a flat in East London.
The only part of his body that has ever been found is his severed thumb, which was discovered outside an office building in Ilford.
One of Mr Ahmad's killers was his ex-brother-in-law, 33-year-old Mohammed Riaz of no fixed abode. St Albans Crown Court heard how Riaz had become fixated with finding out where his ex-wife, who was Mr Ahmad's sister, was staying. Nahid had left Riaz in 2008 because of his violent and abusive behaviour towards her.
At first she had moved to Blackburn in Lancashire, but was forced to re-locate to Burnley after Riaz tracked her down. She changed her name and divorced Riaz under Sharia Law. Only a few members of her family knew where she was.
Riaz began making threats to his ex-wife's relatives to try and trace her. One of Mr Ahmad's other sisters, Razia Ahmad, had her home burgled in 2009 by Riaz - who was looking for information that would lead him to Nahid.
In early 2010 Riaz turned his attention to Mr Ahmad instead.
Detective Chief Inspector Melanie Burn, from the Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, told Heart:
"It definitely looks like this has been planned. The main defendant Mohammed Riaz was fixated with his ex-wife Nahid. He had been planning this. He had spoken to a number of family members belonging to Mahmood before, threatening them."
On March 7th last year Mr Ahmad was grabbed as he came home from work to his wife at their house in Watford. He was taken to a flat in Ilford where he was tortured.
Nearby residents heard his screams but no one alerted police, meaning the gang were able to dispose of the body.
DCI Melanie Burn said:
"He is a victim because he loved and cared for his sister. He wanted to protect her. And if that meant he kept her address secret from Riaz he was prepared to do that. But that may have just cost him his life."
The jury at St Albans Crown Court was told that Mr Ahmad's body had been dismembered using butcher's tools.
Riaz and the others were caught when Mr Ahmad's thumb fell out of the sky in to a car park - detectives believe it had been dropped by a bird. Nearby landfill sites have been searched for more of Mr Ahmad's remains but nothing has been found.
Soon after the murder the Honda car that had been used in the kidnap was broken up. The bathroom in the flat where the murder took place (and which belonged to Riaz's sister) was emptied and the bath, basin and toilet were all ripped out. Along with a sofa and carpets the items were taken to a refuse site in Barking.
Despite the attempted clean-up police forensic teams found blood in the property which matched the DNA profile for Mr Ahmad.
Hertfordshire Police say they are determined to find Mr Ahmad's remains so his family can give him a dignified burial.
The jury at St Albans Crown Court took more than three days to reach their verdicts, following a ten week trial. Within that time they heard 733 statements by 60 witnesses, saw 1741 exhibits and heard 45 interviews.
Mohammed Riaz, who's 33 and of no fixed abode, has been convicted of murder, conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Riaz's brother, Sharif Mohammed, who's 37 and of Vista Drive in Ilford, has been convicted of murder, conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Faisal Chowdhury, who's 18 and from Newham in London, has been cleared of murder but convicted of conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to falsely imprison.
Arnold Yousaf, who's 19 and of Cann Hall Road in East London, has been cleared of murder but convicted of conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to falsely imprison.
Amirzada Hussain, who's 37 and of Churston Avenue, Plaistow, East London, has been cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter, conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Riaz's sister, Sabra Sultana, who's 36 and from Kiwi Terrace in Ilford, has been cleared of conspiracy to falsely imprison but convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
DCI Burn said: “This has been a challenging case, not least because we have been unable to locate Mahmood’s body.
“The investigation arose from Riaz’s fixation with finding where his ex wife was, which only two of her family members knew. One of these family members was Mahmood, who was innocently killed for that reason.
“The behaviour of Riaz and his conspirators is nothing short of barbaric and cruel. They also chose not to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity and have put Mahmood’s family through the horrendous ordeal of their gruesome actions being played out in court.
“Our thoughts are with Mahmood’s family at this time. No one should lose a loved one in these circumstances but I hope what has happened today will be of comfort to them. I would like to thank them for their support in what has been an extremely traumatic time for them and praise them for their courage in supporting the numerous police appeals for information during 2010.
“The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit work relentlessly to pursue criminals who commit these crimes and I would like to thank all those involved, including colleagues in the Metropolitan, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire police forces, for their support and professionalism in dealing with this case and helping bring Mahmood’s killers to justice.
“I would also like to thank the Muslim communities in London and Hertfordshire who assisted us by providing specialist advice and leaflet drops in the mosques and surrounding areas.
“Our search to find Mahmood continues and we will not give up in the hunt to repatriate him to his family. If anyone has any information that could help, I would encourage them to contact us via the non-emergency number 0845 33 00 222.”
CPS Prosecutor Peter Shaw said: “This was a very serious crime. Mohammed Riaz was a violent man obsessed with his ex-wife. Ultimately, this resulted in the disappearance and death of Mahmood Ahmad, whose body has never been found. Those responsible have been brought before the courts, where today, the jury has unanimously agreed with the prosecution’s case and convicted Riaz and his co-defendants.
“The defendants will return to court tomorrow, where Mr Justice Cooke will sentence them appropriately for their crimes.
“Justice has been done for Mahmood’s family and we hope that one day his bodily remains will be recovered, so that they can at least have the solace of a proper funeral.”
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