At the Old Bailey on Thursday, 8 December, 62-year-old Zafar Iqbal pleaded guilty to murdering his wife Naziat Zafar in August 2001 after she began divorce proceedings against him.
He was sentenced today (Monday, 19 December) at the same court to life with a minimum of 19 years, minus time served.
Iqbal fled the country immediately after the murder and following extensive manhunt enquiries and liaison with partners including the National Crime Agency, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the CPS, he was arrested in Pakistan in 2017. He was extradited back to the UK in September 2021.
Detective Chief Inspector Will White, leading the investigation, said: “Iqbal carried out the calculated and brutal murder of his wife simply because she wanted to leave their marriage.
“Not only did he kill her in the most horrific of ways, he did so in front of three of their children, the youngest of whom was only three years old at the time.
“As well as having to grow up without their mother, they have had to live with the memory of what they saw that day, something which has had a profound impact on all of their lives.
“Iqbal thought that by leaving the UK he could escape his crimes but we never gave up on finding him and bringing him back to face justice. Thanks to the determination and perseverance of officers and other criminal justice agencies, he will now spend most if not all of his life in jail.”
In June 2000, Naziat had begun divorce proceedings and Iqbal had moved out of the family home they shared with their four children in Norbury.
Correspondence from the time showed Iqbal was not happy with the prospect of divorce and had asked for extra time to respond to the divorce petition.
On August 20 2001, two of the couple’s daughters – then aged 10 – arrived home to find their father inside and their mother lying on the floor with a scarf tied around her neck. Their three-year-old sister was also in the room.
They pleaded with Iqbal to let her go but instead he tightened the scarf and told them to be quiet. Eventually, after repeatedly tightening the scarf, Naziat stopped moving.
During the attack he also took the scarf from one of his daughters and tightened it around her neck, adding he would do the same to both of them if they didn’t stop crying.
He then made one of them write a note pretending to be from their mother, saying she had gone to a relative’s house in Manchester and would be back in two days’ time.
He stuck the letter on the front door of the house before taking the children to a family acquaintance in Croydon, where they stayed the night. He attempted to reassure them, saying he had made some phone calls and their mother was in hospital in Tooting.
By the time the children got up the next morning, Iqbal had left the house and was on the run.
The girls were collected by their 15-year-old brother, who had been out of London on the day of the attack. They told him what had happened and he returned to the house to find his mother lying on the floor.
Emergency services attended, but Naziat was pronounced dead at the scene. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as ligature strangulation.
A murder investigation was launched and urgent enquiries made to locate Iqbal. It was quickly established he was likely to have left the country.
Working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service, FCDO, the NCA, and Pakistani law enforcement agencies, Iqbal was arrested in Pakistan in 2017. In September 2021, 20 years after the murder of his wife, Iqbal finally returned to the UK to face trial.