The family of a Luton man have spoken of their continued grief as his killer was jailed for life, more than 18 years after the attack.
Father-of-one Soheil Mumtaz was 24-years-old when he was lured to a meeting in Kenilworth Road in Luton and brutally attacked by Mohammed Tabraz on 4 April 2001.
Following the sentencing today, Mr Mumtaz’s family said: “Soheil will always be in our hearts, no matter how broken they are.”
Tabraz, now 39, claimed he carried out the attack as he believed he was acting in retribution for remarks made to member of his family.
He hit Mr Mumtaz more than once with a hammer, causing serious head injuries. Mr Mumtaz was taken to hospital, but succumbed to his injuries on Monday 9 April, leaving behind a pregnant wife and a 14-month-old child.
Detectives discovered that, in order to evade arrest, Tabraz had taken a flight to Pakistan the day after the attack and set up a new life in the United States.
However, he was locked up for drugs offences while in the US and due to being on a wanted list, the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit (MCU) were alerted. Detectives worked with the Crown Prosecution Service and US authorities to carry out the extradition process.
In August this year, MCU detectives travelled to the US to complete Tabraz’s extradition back to the UK so he could finally face justice.
On 25 October at the Central Criminal Court, Mohammed pleaded guilty to murder, claiming his actions had been a so-called “honour” killing.
On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, he was sentenced to life, with a minimum term of 20 years in prison before he can be considered for parole, at St Albans Crown Court.
On sentencing, His Honour Judge Michael Kay QC said: “The case against you is overwhelming. You were aggressive and forcefully struck Mr Mumtaz’s head, yet there was no aggression from Mr Mumtaz.
“Rather than face justice, you fled the country and lived a criminal and disreputable life. No doubt you would continue to evade justice, and this senseless murder initiated by you is risible and offensive to the family (of the victim).”
Mr Mumtaz’s family paid tribute to him in a statement which read: “We were almost coming to a point where we could accept it, when the offender was found and brought back, and it was almost like we were living it all again.
“At the moment the grief we feel as a family is still fresh. The pain we feel is immense, but we feel it especially around momentous days and celebrations that take place without him. All of these things have been brought about by the violent and selfish actions of Mohammed Tabraz.
“We still struggle to accept that Soheil is gone. Tabraz has affected every single member of our family in a way you cannot imagine. He has taken such a precious person away from all of us; ruined our lives and made a new one for himself, living freely without remorse or paying for his crime.
“There is no sentence that can be imposed that will ever reflect the grief and pain that has been felt by our family. Soheil will always be in our hearts, no matter how broken they are.”
Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins, from the BCH Major Crime Unit led the investigation. She said: “Tabraz took a man’s life then cowardly hid behind a different identity in another country as he built a new life for himself.
“No direct evidence has been provided to support his reasoning for what he did. Many years have passed, but this case shows that if you commit a crime it will always catch up with you. Tabraz should indeed face the consequences of his actions, and I am pleased that he has at last been brought to account for his terrible crime.
“There can be no honour in murder, and we can only hope the sentence handed down by the judge today may finally provide some small comfort for Mr Mumtaz’s family, who have suffered every day since 4 April 2001. Nothing will make up for their loss but at least they now know that the person responsible is incarcerated.”
Senior Crown Prosecutor Robbie Weber from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This was a horrendous and senseless attack, the consequences of which have caused Mr Mumtaz’s family years of indescribable suffering.
“Presented with the indisputable evidence, including witness accounts, forensics and the post-mortem findings, Tabraz had no choice but to admit that he was the person responsible for taking Mr Mumtaz’s life. We hope that seeing him finally face justice helps to bring some closure for the victim’s family.”