Died 25th May 2012 (Updated Report)
Rushna Begum (28) died on 25th May 2012 at Newmill House in Bromley-by-Bow, east London, murdered by her husband Sheikh Shahidul Islam (35). She was stabbed to death.
On 21st November 2012 he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty. He was ordered to serve a minimum term of 14 and a half years. The court was told that Islam had “not displayed any sign of remorse” since the murder.
After Rushna Begum was killed, Islam left their son alone in the house with his mother’s dead body before travelling to a relative’s home in Luton and asking them to call the police. Islam claimed that he thought his son was at nursery at the time. When the police found the boy, who had been there for hours, he was crying and told them “Mummy couldn’t answer the phone because she was sleeping”.
Ms Begum and her husband had been married for 10 years and they had two sons together, but he had a gambling problem and Ms Begum had been subjected to death threats and domestic abuse. Before the fatal attack, Ms Begum had contacted police about her husband’s abuse after he threatened her with a knife. She also visited a domestic violence centre, where she was seen to have a black eye and bruises.
Ms Begum told police that she had been “mentally tortured” by her husband since his gambling problems began in 2009. She had described him as being “addicted to gambling”. In 2011 the couple, who had over £30,000 worth of debt, were taken to court by creditors, Prosecutor Peter Kyte QC told the court that Islam had gambled away up to £900,000 during the marriage, including the profits he made from selling his takeaway shop in East Ham and a small kiosk. She decided to stay with him but, a few weeks later, Islam started to threaten her again saying “I will put an end to your life.”
Ms Begum had complained to her housing manager about her husband’s threatening behaviour, saying she was “extremely concerned” about her safety and the safety of her children. She told the housing manager that her husband had threatened to kill her on “numerous occasions”.
In February 2012, their families called a meeting to discuss their marriage. It was reported that during the meeting, Islam accused his wife of having an affair but also asked her to forgive him for losing their savings, spending her wages and selling her car and jewellery. It was unclear from reports whether the issue of his violence had been discussed.
Defence lawyer Jane Bickerstaff said Islam claimed his wife said “I have broken my promise to you” during the argument, which he said he interpreted as meaning that she had been unfaithful.
Detective Inspector Pete North described the killing as a “violent and despicable crime” and said that Islam had not “displayed any sign of remorse or compassion throughout the investigation”. He added: “This is demonstrated by the fact that he murdered Rushna whilst their two-year-old son was present in the address and then left him alone with his mother’s lifeless body. It was only thanks to the concern of family members that he was found over four hours later.”
In a statement, Ms Begum’s uncle, who helped arrange the marriage, said: “The children have had their whole world turned upside down.” He said Ms Begum’s mother was now looking after her two grandchildren but the youngest child suffered from nightmares and was affected by the colour red.
Judge Brian Barker, the Common Serjeant of London, said gambling “had got the better” of Islam and said the addiction led to his “downfall, misery and finally disaster”.
He said Islam had caused “untold anguish” to Ms Begum’s family and friends.
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Murder Maps, the Daily Mail and Total Policing. An initial report on her death was updated 22nd November 2012.
FOD Note: Detective Inspector Pete North described Rushna Begum’s murder as a violent and despicable crime, but then went on to say that the “tragedy of Islam’s crime is that he has deprived his two children of their mother.” FOD regrets that, in his legitimate focus on the children’s loss of their mother, DI North did not first refer to the overriding tragedy that Ms Begum, who was obviously courageous, held down a job and been a good parent to her children, had lost her right to life. We also note that the Judge’s reported comments also appear to focus on the anguish of Ms Begum’s family and the devastating effects of gambling on Islam’s life, rather than Ms Begum’s right to life and the years of violence she suffered. Questions should surely be asked about how it was that Ms Begum reported serious violence and threats to kill on more than one occasion to the police and council officials and there were independent witnesses to prior injury, but she and her children were not safeguarded and Islam was not prosecuted. There is no report of review by the IPCC.
Comments on the Daily Mail’s website showed more concern for Rushna Begum. We quote just part of one comment from ‘Leakath‘, who wrote: “I knew rushna, she was a kind devoted person who alway put her family first, she also put up with this mans violence for many years. Anyone that knew rushna will tell you she would never in a billion years be unfaithful….. May Allah give rushna the highest level in paradise!”