Died 29th July 2008

Cassandra Hasanovic (24), known as Cassie, was murdered on 29th July 2008 outside her mother’s home in Bognor, Sussex.

Hajrudin Hasanovic (34) her Serbian-born husband, of Guston, near Dover, was jailed for life in 2009 for her murder by Judge Richard Brown at Lewes Crown Court. He will serve a minimum of 18 years.

He had denied murder but had admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.

Ms Hasanovic was living separately from her violent husband and was on her way to a refuge when she was stabbed to death in front of her young children and mother.

In February 2014 a jury at an inquest in Chichester, Sussex returned a verdict of unlawful killing and criticised the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Sussex Police for failing to take steps to safeguard her life.

The inquest heard that in fear for her life, Ms Hasanovic decided to leave her mother’s home in Bognor Regis and go to a women’s refuge. She had asked police for an escort to the refuge but the request was refused. As her mother started the car with Ms Hasanovic and her children in the back, Hasanovic appeared. He then grabbed his wife, pulled her across one of the children and into the street, where he repeatedly stabbed her with a large kitchen knife.

Following the inquest verdict, West Sussex Coroner Penelope Schofield said she would be writing to the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sussex Police and the CPS to recommend information on domestic violence cases be shared across forces.

Jaswant Narwal, chief crown prosecutor in CPS South East, said: “It is now clear that there were shortcomings in the way in which we dealt with Cassandra’s case [in 2007].
Since that time, the CPS and the criminal justice system as a whole have seen significant changes in the way we prosecute domestic violence and sexual offences.”

Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra said the murder was a “watershed moment” for Sussex Police and the force had already learnt a number of “important lessons” about how it dealt with domestic abuse. He said “We continue to express our sincere condolences to Cassie’s family who have suffered this tragic loss of a mother and daughter”.
“Sussex Police acknowledges the verdict of the jury in this case and awaits the Coroner’s letter highlighting points raised in the inquest.”

The Inquest seems to have come to very different conclusions from an earlier investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which began an investigation because of police contact with Ms Hasanovic before her death. That report said the officers who dealt with her complaints about her estranged husband had “acted appropriately”. The IPCC also said officers were not obliged to transport her to the women’s refuge on the day of her murder.

At the time, IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: “The IPCC investigation was thorough and I do not believe that the tragic events that unfolded on 29th July could reasonably have been foreseen by Sussex Police and prevented.”

The Coroner’s view and the police and CPS response seem forcefully to contradict this.

During Hasanovic’s two-week trial, jurors heard how he attacked Ms Hasanovic after losing a custody battle for their two young sons, aged five and three, and was being deported. The court heard she had voiced repeated fears to police and her family about a catalogue of threats and abuse she had suffered during their five-year marriage.

Judge Richard Brown told Hasanovic: “I am satisfied on the evidence that you clearly planned to kill your wife and you armed yourself for that purpose. This was an horrendous act of violence committed in a public place in full view of your children, the very children you claimed to care so much for. In killing her, you have deprived those boys of their mother and devastated her family and friends.”

In a statement after the sentencing, Sharon De Souza, the mother of Ms Hasanovic, said “a light has gone out of our lives”. She described her daughter as “a beautiful, loving, compassionate, inspirational woman” who absolutely adored her children. She said
“This brutal, cruel and senseless act has torn our lives apart”.

Hasanovic was arrested on suspicion of attacking his wife after their marriage came to an end in May 2007. A non-molestation order was imposed by the courts in April 2007 banning Hasanovic from venturing within 250m of Ms Hasanovic or from calling or texting her, but he continually breached it.

Jurors heard she fled to relatives in Australia, but was forced to return to the UK after Hasanovic started legal proceedings to try to gain custody of their two sons.

Ms Hasanovic’s mother, Sharon De Souza, told the inquest her daughter gave Sussex and Kent police forces information about where her husband, who lived in Dover, was working and living. Despite telling them he was repeatedly breaching the non-molestation order, no-one seemed to be doing anything to catch him, she said.

Ms De Souza said her daughter had been “unravelling in fear” about what Hasanovic would do to her. During the trial, Hasanovic was described as a “paranoid and jealous” partner who turned his wife from being bright and bubbly to a “petrified” young woman.

Ms De Souza said her daughter’s mobile phone had a direct line to the police and that a panic button had been installed in her home. She said Hasanovic called her daughter continually and even made a friend request to her on Facebook shortly before he killed her. She said Ms Hasanovic had been frightened to go out on her own and would only let one of her children go into daycare because they had CCTV cameras and used codes to get into the building, so there was less of a risk of abduction. She said her daughter felt like a “sitting duck” but could not go anywhere because Hasanovic had taken the children’s passports.

Her mother said “She kept saying to me, ‘I know he’s going to kill me mum’. His time with immigration was running out and she believed that was when he would do something because his situation was getting desperate. She was unravelling in fear and the refuge was offered.” Ms De Souza said she believed the police should have given them help to get to the refuge safely but when they asked for help nothing was done.

During the trial, Prosecutor Philippa McAtasney QC told the court: “He knew that he had lost the custody battle and was about to be deported, so in anger and hate he carried out the threats to kill that he made to Cassandra on numerous occasions.”

After the trial Detective Chief Inspector Graham Pratt, from Sussex Police, described Hasanovic as “cold and callous”. He added “When he realised that he was likely to lose what was most important to him, namely his children, he planned to kill Cassie”.

Note: This report was drawn from reports in the BBC.

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