NESTLED between a car showroom and a takeaway, it looks an ordinary furniture and carpet shop, like many in East London areas with substantial Asian populations. But this Ilford shop was the venue of extraordinary brutality on Jan 24 when Seyed Khan, general-secretary of the London chapter of the Pakhtun nationalist party, the ANP, was hacked to death.
Imran Muhammad bludgeoned Mr Khan, a father of seven, at least 12 times in the head with a metal axe before carrying the body a mile in a shopping trolley in the middle of night. He was found guilty of murder after a trial that concluded on Thursday at Old Bailey. Mr Khan went missing on the evening of Jan 24 after arriving at A-Z Furniture and Carpet Store, owned by his friend. Initially, it was said that “he went outside to take a telephone call and was never seen again,” but this later proved a red herring on Muhammad’s part.
The London Metropolitan Police launched a missing person’s appeal in which Mr Khan was described as “an Asian man, around 5ft 9ins tall, of medium build with short black hair. At the time of his disappearance he was wearing blue jeans, a black jacket and grey trainers.” The first breakthrough came almost a week after his disappearance when police found some items linked to the investigation in an Ilford cemetery. Forensic officers and a search team with police dogs were seen at the scene on Feb 1.
The police later recovered Mr Khan’s body from the cemetery, arrested Muhammad, his co-worker at A-Z Furniture and Carpet Store from Glasgow, and charged him with murder.
During the trial held at Old Bailey, the court heard how Muhammad, who was employed at the store and was left in charge of running the shop while the owner was in Pakistan. On the evening of Jan 24, Mr Khan told his family that he was going to the shop to do some deliveries. CCTV footage showed him parking his car in the street outside the shop and entering the premises at around 6pm. He was not seen alive again.
At around 6.10pm, the shop’s shutters were seen to come down and the internal lights were turned off. In that short period of time, Mr Khan had been attacked. As he lay dying on the floor, Muhammad began a futile attempt to cover his tracks which included moving the body, redecorating the shop and attempting to dispose of incriminating evidence.
At around 1.20am on Jan 25, CCTV captured Muhammad wheeling a shopping trolley down the High Road towards Ilford cemetery. Mr Khan’s body was concealed inside, and Muhammad dumped the corpse, along with other items, in the cemetery.
Timothy Cray, prosecuting, told the court Mr Khan, a “hard working family man” and part-time Uber driver, is believed to have been ambushed from behind by Muhammed on the evening of Jan 24, suffering at least 12 blows to the head with the axe. “The defendant killed Seyed in the inner office area of A-Z, and after the killing he spent most of Wednesday evening trying to clean up the blood that had been left behind,” he said.
“He even tried to paint over the bloodstains that were left on the wall of the office and started to bag up the murder weapon and the blood-stained clothing. He got a shopping trolley from one of the nearby supermarkets, put Seyed’s body in the trolley together with the axe and other blood-stained material from the shop. He took all of that, wheeling the shopping trolley through the streets to the cemetery a mile away.”
Mr Cray said that Muhammad spent around 40 minutes in the cemetery, hiding the body in deep undergrowth, before returning to the shop to continue the clean-up process. He then disposed of Mr Khan’s mobile phone and phoned 999 at 6am the following morning, claiming his forearms, which were injured during the murder, had been slashed during a robbery. He called the shop owner to claim he was worried about Mr Khan because his car was outside the shop and may get a ticket.
Muhammad moved to the UK as a student in 2011 but his visa expired four years ago. He then fled to Glasgow where he was arrested, on Feb 1, when Mr Khan’s body was discovered.
When quizzed by the police, Muhammad admitted killing his colleague but claimed he had been acting in self-defence because Mr Khan had made unwanted sexual advances on him. He also claimed that Mr Khan had threatened to blackmail him over his immigration status, the court heard.
However, his story was undone when it emerged that he had been searching online for “how to kill a man with a hammer” and “how to kill a man with a single punch” just four days before the murder.
Muhammad was found guilty in a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 24 years in jail after being found guilty. He was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice and was jailed for five years — the sentences will run concurrently.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018