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Mother-of-four Saima Khan was stabbed to death

A woman who stabbed her sister to death after starting an affair with her brother-in-law, was jailed for life today and told she must spend a minimum of 22 years behind bars by an Old Bailey judge.

Sabah Khan murdered her older sister Saima in the house where they all lived because she wanted Saima's husband, Hafeez Rehman for herself.

The younger sister carried out the brutal knife attack late at night when other members of the family, including the sisters' elderly parents and taxi driver Hafeez, were at a funeral at a local mosque.

In the hallway of the family's three bedroomed semi-detached home, Sabah Khan, 27, launched the murderous attack with a large kitchen knife on her defenceless sister.

Nearby, Saima's four young children were asleep in their beds, unaware of the horror unfolding as their aunt butchered their mother.

Such was the savagery of the attack that night in May of 2016, that the 34 year old wife suffered 68 separate sites of injury.

Her left arm suffered four serious deep wounds and the left hand was almost severed. Knife wounds rained down on Saima's skull and face.

One knife wound passed through the left side of her neck, severing arteries and the jugular vein.

The Old Bailey was told today that even after Saima had died, evidence was found to show that the younger sister had pulled away at clothing to inflict more deep knife wounds.

Saima's family returned to the house in Luton, Beds, from the mosque to find her lifeless body lying in a pool of blood in the hallway close to the front door.

The sound of their screams rang out in the street and alerted neighbours that something terrible had happened.

At the Central criminal court in London on Thursday, Sabah Khan appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty earlier this week to the murder of her sister.  

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Moss QC told her "It was your intention that your sister should die.  The attack was brutal and prolongued."

The judge said that the evidence revealed that even after Saima had died, and her lifeless body was on the hallway floor, the younger sister continued to stab at her.

Khan, dressed in a black jacket and trousers was told her she would have to spend a minimum of 22 years behind bars before she could even be considered for parole.

She had pleaded guilty to the murder of her sister, a care worker, on the night of May 23 last year at the family home in Overstone Road, Luton, Beds where she, Saima and her husband Hafeez, along with their four children and the sisters' parents all lived.

Earlier this month the family, who are still living at the house, put the property up for sale with an asking price of £360,000.

Prosecutor Jane Bickerstaff QC told the court that living at the house in Overstone Road was Sabah Khan, her sister Saima and her husband Hafeez Rehman, along with their four young children. Also under the same roof was the sisters' elderly parents and another brother.

Miss Bickerstaff told the court that Sabah Khan "had been in a sexual relationship" with her sister's husband Hafeez.

The prosecutor told how, on May 23 last year, an elderly relative of the family died and it was arranged that the parents, along with Hafeez Rehman, would attend the funeral at a local mosque.

Saima was unable to go because she had to attend the home of an elderly woman in her role as a carer that night.

Sabah also remained at home to look after her sister's four young children - a 7 year old daughter, two sons aged 4 and 2 and a baby girl, who had just had her first birthday.

Miss Bickerstaff said Saima left the house in Overstone Road at around 10.15 that night to go to work but, half an hour later, Sabah Khan texted her sister to say that one of the children was crying and she should come home quickly.

Miss Bickerstaff said that at 11.03 that night, Saima Khan replied "On my way."

The court was told that a cctv system on a neighbouring property captured the moment Saima arrived outside her home and showed her entering the property at 11.07.

Miss Bickerstaff said "The lights were seen going on at the house.  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 court was told that Sabah had deliberately dressed herself in dark clothing to carry out the attack.  She had put on two pairs of sterile gloves and had prepared black plastic bags in which she would put the bloodstained clothing along with the knife in.

Then she quickly showered in an attempt to clean up.

But her plan also involved her making out her sister had died as a result of an intruder breaking into the property that night.

She broke a back door window and overturned boxes of jewellery upstairs in the house.

"When the family, paramedics and police arrived, she perpetuated the story that she had been in the shower and oblivious to events downstairs when an intruder must have entered the house by the back door and murdered her sister" said Miss Bickerstaff.

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 scenes of crime officer in the Overstone Road property discovered a black binbag in the defendant's bedroom which contained bloodstained clothing, the knife and the gloves she had worn.

She was then arrested and told police that she had loved her sister and was shocked to be accused.

Miss Bickerstaff then told the court how, as the police enquiry continued, it was discovered that Sabah Khan and Saima's husband Hafeez Rehman had been having a sexual relationship going back at least 4 years.

At one stage during it, the court was told that the younger sister had had an abortion after becoming pregnant by Hafeez.

Her mobile phone was examined and text messages were found referring to her sister as "a bitch."

In one text message to her brother-in-law, she wrote "Why are you showing her fake concern?"

In another message to Hafeez, the younger sister said "That bitch you constantly text 24/7, but me you don't have time."

Two months before the murder, Sabah Khan wrote to her brother-in-law:  "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.

"No matter how bad you treat me, it won't change.  Day by day, my love gets stronger.

"Please give me my Hafeez back."

Miss Bickerstaff told the court that, in the weeks leading up to the murder, it appeared that Hafeez Rehman had switched his affections back to his wife from her younger sister.

The court was told that police also discovered that the defendant had been carrying out internet searches as she planned the murder.

One search term read "Where to buy poisonous snakes."

Another read "How to hire a killer" and "Hiring a hitman for just £200."

Another astonishing search term that officers found read "Sixteen steps to kill someone and not get caught."

But it was also discovered that Sabah Khan had been in touch with a mysterious figure back in Pakistan, described in court as "a fixer."

She had paid the man £5,000 in instalments on the understanding that he was to bring about the death of Saima.

Judge Moss was told that Sabah Khan had taken the decision to kill her sister probably at around 2pm on May 23 when she realised her parents and brother-in-law would be out of the house attending the funeral.

She had already purchased the large kitchen knife from a local Tesco store and she decided that late that night she would kill her sister.

Miss Bickerstaff said that day Sabah Khan also researched on the internet how long a Muslim funeral usually took.

The prosecutor said "There had been a significant degree of planning and pre-meditation.

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.

The statement finished with Hafeez saying:  "Not a day goes by that I don't regret my affair with Sabah."

The court was told Hafeez Rehman had first met Saima in 2001 during a holiday in Dubai and they eventually married.

He arrived in the UK in 2011 and the family all lived together in Luton.

In a statement he had given to detectives, he said the younger sister was around 22 when she first started showing an interest in him.

"Sabah started all the contact between us but, after a while, I liked it."

He said that, on one occasion when his wife had been out of the house, Sabah Khan had got into bed with him and it was then that he began having sex with her.

He said "I felt that Sabah forced me to have sex by saying that if I didn't do it, she would do something."

Hafeez said that if there were occasions when he didn't want to have sex with her, she would get angry.

His statement to police went on:  "Saima knew Sabah really liked me, but she never knew about the sex."

Mr Jo Sidhu QC, defending, said his client had been born in Amsterdam and came to the UK in 2009.

He said that her brother-in-law was around ten years older than her.

"There was a point in time when she began to fall for him."

He said that she found the whole situation stressful and was wracked with guilt at the fact that she was sleeping with her sister's husband under the roof of her parents' home.

Mr Sidhu said that, although Saima Khan had been in the dark at the start, she did become aware of what was happening and the relationship between the sisters was strained.

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."

On the night of the killing, the judge said:  "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, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Gallop from the Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, who was the senior investigating officer, said: "This is any family's worst nightmare - it is beyond comprehension for the family to hear that one daughter has brutally murdered another. It has been a horrendous ordeal for them and we are pleased that she pleaded guilty.

"We continue to support the family, I'm not sure there can ever really be a closure, but what I do hope is that after sentencing they can hear what happened that night and start to move forward."

There were claims that a burglar had got into the property and carried out the killing.

But eight days after the killing detectives arrested Sabah after the knife was recovered from a bin bag in her bedroom.

After the case the senior investigating office, Detective Inspector Adam Gallop said "It was a a horrific crime. I am for the family in that they are now able to move on to the next stage of the grieving process."

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