An Islamabad district and sessions court was informed on Thursday that all the evidence collected in the Sarah Inam murder case proved that Shahnawaz Amir, the prime accused, was guilty of the crime and should be sentenced to death.
Sarah, a Canadian national, was allegedly murdered by Shahnawaz, her husband and son of renowned journalist Ayaz Amir, in Islamabad a year ago.
Shahnawaz was arrested on Sept 23 last year at a farmhouse in Islamabad’s Shahzad Town. Sarah was reportedly murdered just a day after she arrived in the country from Dubai where she had been working. The accused was initially remanded to police custody a day after his arrest and the period of his physical remand was extended several times.
On December 5, both Shahnawaz and his mother were indicted in the case.
In January, Dr Bushra Ashraf, who conducted Sarah’s post-mortem examination, told an Islamabad court that the victim had multiple fractures on her head.
In July, Shahnawaz’s lawyer completed the cross-examination of Sarah’s father and her uncle. Her father Inamur Rahim has ruled out any compromise, which he has also blamed for delays in the case’s conclusion.
Last month, in Investigation Officer (IO) Habibur Rehman testimony, it was revealed that Shahnawaz had confessed to the crime. Subsequently, the sessions judge had concluded recording statements of the IO and the prosecution witnesses in the murder case.
Today, the court heard final arguments from all the parties as the case nears conclusion. Shahnawaz, his mother and Sarah’s father were present during the hearing.
At the outset, Rao Abdur Rahim, counsel for Sarah’s father, told Sessions Judge Nasir Javed Rana that a forensic analysis revealed two photos were found in Shahnawaz’s phone, of which one was of the victim. He said it showed Sarah’s body, covered with a white cloth, lying in the room.
The photo, he continued, was also sent through WhatsApp. He did not mention to whom it was sent.
He noted that Shahnawaz had said, during his testimony, that there was no disagreement between the accused and the victim. “We have found a document from the accused’s mobile phone which is dated prior to Sarah’s arrival in Pakistan,” he said, adding that testimonies could lie but documents could not.
The lawyer stated that there were only three people in the house at the time of the murder — Shahnawaz, his mother and Sarah. “The victim’s phone was destroyed when she reached the accused’s house. She was at his mercy.”
Rao further said that the postmortem report showed there were bruises on Sarah’s body, her bones were broken and all these injuries were inflicted while the victim was still alive. “How is it possible that Samina Shah didn’t hear a thing while Sarah was tortured to this extent?” he asked.
The lawyer also highlighted that the accused had said he didn’t divorce Sarah, but his phone record showed otherwise. Moreover, the DVR at Shahnawaz’s house was removed just two days before the crime, he added.
“All this evidence proves Shahnawaz’s crime,” Rao asserted and compared the murder with the Noor Mukadam case. He then pleaded to the court to hand the death penalty to the accused and concluded the arguments.
Subsequently, Prosecutor Rana Hassan Abbas came to the rostrum. He said the incident was neither reported by the police nor the accused.
“The victim was an educated and talented woman,” he told the court, recalling that Sarah married Shahnawaz last year.
According to the evidence collected from the accused’s mobile phone, Sarah called Shahnawaz on Sept 18 — five days before her alleged murder — the prosecutor said and read out loud the transcript of the conversation. “The accused blocked Sarah multiple times and even threatened her,” he said, adding that the victim was just requesting that her parents be given a chance to see her off in an honourable way.
“Three messages in this chat were deleted that were possibly related to divorce,” prosecutor Abbas stated. The last message sent by Shahnawaz was on Sept 20 after which Sarah landed in Pakistan on Sept 22 and stayed with the accused.
On the day of the murder, he continued, Samina Baig told the police that her son committed the murder after which evidence — including the murder weapon — was collected from the crime scene. “Shahnawaz’s DNA was found from the injuries on Sarah’s body,” Abbas said, adding that the accused’s clothes were smeared with blood.
He added that passports and mobile phones were also seized.
Here, Judge Rana asked the prosecutor how much more time he would need, to which Abbas replied 20 minutes. The judge, however, said he had a meeting to attend and adjourned the hearing till Monday (Nov 20).
In September, the police become a complainant in the case, with a first information report (FIR) registered for the murder on the complaint of Shahzad Town Station House Officer (SHO) Nawazish Ali Khan at the Chak Shahzad police station, initially under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Later, police added Section 109 (punishment for abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of the PPC to the FIR and initiated proceedings against Shahnawaz’s parents, Sameena and senior journalist Ayaz Amir.
The development came after Sarah’s uncle filed an application with police, alleging that Shahnawaz had murdered Sarah in connivance with his parents.
According to the FIR, the SHO was present on Park Road near Chatha Bakhtawar when he got the information about the murder.
The FIR stated that when the police team reached the farmhouse where the murder had taken place, they were received by the mother of the main suspect who told them that her son had “murdered his wife during a scuffle”.
As per the FIR, she informed the police that her son was still present in the house. The police managed to enter the house and detained the suspect, it claimed, adding that the suspect’s hands were “soaked in blood” at the time of the arrest.
During the inquiry, the man identified himself as Shahnawaz Amir and told the police that he had murdered his wife with a dumbbell and hid her body in a bathtub in the bathroom, it claimed.
Police recovered the dead body on his information, the FIR said, adding that a wound was found on the head of the deceased. The police team also recovered the murder weapon from the house which was “hidden under a bed”, it added.
Subsequently, the body was moved to the Poly Clinic for autopsy and the murder weapon and Shahnawaz’s shirt were sent for a forensic audit.