Woman who murdered husband in ‘merciless attack’ has punishment part reduced on appeal
A woman who was jailed for life with a minimum of 25-and-a-half years after being found guilty of the murder of her husband has had the punishment part of her sentence reduced following an appeal.
Haider Hayat was killed by his wife Saima Hayat and husband and wife Muhammed Rauf and Shahida Abid in a flat in Glasgow, after being subject to a “brutal” attack which started while he lay asleep in bed.
The punishment part for the first appellant Mohammed Rauf was set at 24 years, while the punishment part imposed upon the second and third appellants Shahida Abid and Saima Hayat, who were also convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice, was 25-and-a-half years.
But the Appeal Court of the High Court of the Justiciary reduced the punishment part of the two women to 24 years, after ruling that there was no basis distinguishing between the three appellants.
The Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull, heard that following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow all three appellants were convicted of murder by repeatedly striking the “defenceless” deceased on the head and body with a hammer and a knife or similar weapons, in what the trial judge described as a “sustained, relentless and merciless attack”.
There were at least 100 separate blows to the deceased’s head, his skull being effectively “demolished into small pieces”, and his throat was cut at least 16 times, probably inflicted when he was already dying.
A downstairs neighbour, who had heard thumping sounds, groaning and whimpering from the flat upstairs which sounded like a male person was being attacked, recorded the noises coming from the property at about 3am in the morning of the murder.
Regular thumping could be heard on the “chilling” recording when played in court, which the Crown submitted was the striking of the deceased on the head.
The third appellant, in respect of whom there was a docket attached to the indictment disclosing that she had assaulted her husband, the father of her five children, on various occasions over a four-year period, was also convicted of previously evicting malice and ill will towards the deceased.
The first appellant gave evidence admitting responsibility for the killing, but claiming “provocation”, and instructing the clean-up operation.
The second and third appellants were also convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to clean-up the premises, disposing of CCTV footage which had been deliberately disconnected prior to the killing, and concocting a false story which the trial judge described as “preposterous”.
However, all three appellants appealed against there respective sentences in relation to the murder charge, on the basis that the punishment parts imposed by the sentencing judge were “excessive”.
On behalf of the first appellant the appeal was essentially advanced on a comparative basis under reference to cases such as of the Lockerbie bomber in HM Advocate v Al-Megrahi, HM Advocate v Walker 2003 SLT 130 and HM Advocate v Boyle 2010 JC 66.
The argument for the second appellant was that the judge failed to give “appropriate weight to mitigating factors” relating to her personal circumstances and lack of convictions.
It was also submitted that the judge had speculated unduly about her direct involvement in the murder, as opposed to involvement by accession and planning.
Further, it was argued that the circumstances of the other charge were “not sufficiently serious” to justify imposing a greater sentence on her than on the first appellant, who was the main assailant.
For the third appellant, it was submitted that while there was circumstantial evidence capable of supporting the inference that she was actively involved in the murder, the more significant body of evidence pointed away from this, and the sentencing judge ought to have distinguished between the part played by the first appellant as the principal actor, and the third appellant whose investment was less direct.
It was also argued that while there was evidence of a planned attack on the night of the murder, there was no proper foundation for the judge’s view that the third appellant had been plotting the murder of her husband over a period of months.
The appeal judges rejected the first appellant’s argument that the punishment part imposed upon him was excessive when compared to other cases, having observed that the “degree of violence was intense, severe and brutal”, but allowed the second and third appellant’s appeal to a limited extent.
Delivering the opinion of the court, the Lord Justice Clerk said: “The most significant aspects of the present case are the planning, and the extraordinarily brutal extent of the violence perpetrated against the deceased. The first appellant was, by his own admission, the individual directly responsible for the latter.
“We do not consider that there is any basis for thinking that the punishment part selected by the trial judge was other than appropriate. It cannot be described as excessive and in his case the appeal must fail.”
In relation to the second and third appellants, Lady Dorrian continued: “It is clear that each of these appellants was involved in the planning of the murder, and they must take responsibility for doing so. They were present when the murder was perpetrated and sought to cover it up afterwards, however haplessly they did so.
“However, from the judge’s direction to the jury it must be accepted that there was not a basis for convicting either of them as actor: their guilt was guilt in concert with the first appellant. That does not, of course, alleviate them of the responsibility for the murder.
“Nevertheless, the sustained and merciless attack, the degree of brutality and violence, was at the hand of the first appellant. Notwithstanding their involvement in the second charge, which was in relatively limited scope, we do not consider that there was a basis for imposing upon them, for that reason alone, a sentence greater than that imposed upon the first appellant.
“We have also considered whether the position of the third appellant was exacerbated by the aggravation of showing malice and ill-will towards the deceased. However, we have concluded that it does not.
“The real effect of this evidence was to enable the Crown to establish, together with the CCTV evidence, that this must have been a premeditated murder. All three were guilty of the premeditation.”
The court concluded: “We do not think there is a basis for distinguishing between the appellants on that account. Accordingly, in the case of the second and third appellants, the appeal must therefore succeed to the extent that the punishment part must be reduced to that imposed upon the first appellant.”
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021