Murder Victim Told Police Four Times She Feared Her Family

Police are failing to protect young women at risk of being murdered by their families in so-called “honour” killings, despite a high-profile prevention scheme set up four years ago, senior officers have told the Guardian.

They say a raft of measures aimed at saving lives have been shelved, delayed or ignored by Scotland Yard. Among them were plans to train frontline staff in how to spot vulnerable women and a system to ensure potential victims of “honour”-based violence were risk-assessed and properly dealt with.

The admissions came as the Metropolitan police were criticised for their handling of the case of Banaz Mahmod, a young Kurdish woman whose father and uncle were yesterday convicted of her murder. One detective, who asked not to be named, said that if the Met prevention scheme had been in place Ms Mahmod might be alive today.

He said: “We started to learn lessons and then stopped learning them as a result of political correctness. And then Banaz died and that should never have happened.”

A lack of formal training for officers had also resulted in a “police station lottery”, where women like Ms Mahmod were in danger of being ignored or not given adequate protection.

Another officer said: “If it were young white girls complaining that their lives were at risk, there would be an outcry.”

In the Mahmod case, the Old Bailey heard that she had repeatedly told police her family was trying to kill her.

Banaz Mahmod, 20, told officers on at least four occasions between December 4 2005 and January 23 2006, about threats made. She wrote a letter, naming those she thought were plotting against her.

On New Year’s Eve that year, she told them her father had tried to kill her but the officer did not take her claims seriously.

Her body was found months later on April 28 2006, crammed into a suitcase and buried in a pit, the bootlace used to strangle her still around her neck.

Yesterday, after a three-month Old Bailey trial, her father, Mahmod Mahmod, 52, and her uncle, Ari Mahmod, 51, both of Mitcham, south London, were found guilty of murdering her.

A third man, Mohamad Hama, 30, had earlier pleaded guilty to her murder.

Detective Inspector Caroline Goode, in charge of the investigation, said Ms Mahmod was a loving and caring young woman whose death at the hands of her family was the “ultimate betrayal”.

A number of police officers will face an internal disciplinary inquiry over their handling of Ms Mahmod’s case in the weeks before she died. Their actions will also be the subject of a police-led investigation under the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act.

The inquiry will look at whether police might have increased the risk to Ms Mahmod by speaking to her parents after the New Year’s Eve incident, or by approaching her mother on an earlier occasion. Met guidelines on such investigations clearly state: “Do not approach the family.”

The Met began a review of the way it handles “honour” killing cases after the murder of Kurdish-born teenager Heshu Yones in 2002. Her father, Abdalla, became the first person to be convicted of an “honour” killing in Britain in 2003.

In 2003 a strategy to deal with such crimes included recommendations for training all officers and a “flag” system for “honour”-based violence. But it was not introduced until last year.

Laura Richards, senior behavioural analyst at the Met’s homicide prevention unit, said they had failed to learn lessons from previous cases.

“We need to plug the gaps,” she said. “The detectives and specialist officers have training but we need to revise our frontline training to desk officers and 999 call handlers.”

Jasvinder Sanghera, director of Karma Nirvana, a group that supports victims of “honour”-based violence, accused police of “fumbling in the dark”.

“There is a lack of confidence among women that police will protect them,” she said. “There is a misconception that forced marriage and ‘honour’ killing is part of our culture – but these are criminal activities and they need to be treated as such. The officers who dealt with Banaz failed in their public duty to protect her. The sad thing is Banaz will happen again.”

The Southall Black Sisters and the Iran and Kurdish Woman’s Rights Organisation called for an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and urged the Crown Prosecution Service to bring the remaining suspects to justice.