THE mother of arson victims Anum and Majid Khan paid an emotional first visit to their graves yesterday as one of their killers, Fiaz Munshi, started a 13-year jail term.
Munshi, 38, of Oldham, was convicted of being involved in the deaths of Anum, eight, and Majid, 15, who were killed after an arson attack at their Magdalen Road home in the early hours of August 26, 1997.
It was Mehfooz Akhtar’s first visit to Botley Cemetery in North Hinksey Lane since her children were laid to rest almost 17 years ago, and the first time the Khan Akhtar family had been there together.
Mrs Akhtar wept as she knelt beside their headstones.
She repeatedly said: “Forgive me. I could not save you that night.”
A blanket of flowers, including dozens of sunflowers, were put over their graves as the family paid its emotional respects to the children, at the end of almost eight weeks in court for the trial of the final person to be convicted for their killings.
Anum was found in her bedroom, while Majid died in hospital two days later from his injuries.
Five men were convicted of their murder in 1998, and Munshi’s sister Riaz was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter in 1999.
In a victim impact statement, which was read to the court by prosecutor Neil Moore, Mrs Akhtar said: “A mother has a God-given instinct to always protect and nurture her children. I have spent the last 17 years wishing I could change places with my son Majid and daughter Anum to take away the inhumane horror and pain they suffered on that night.
“For the rest of my life I live with the continuous guilt that I could not save them.”
Describing how Majid wished to play cricket for England and Anum loved writing princess stories, she added: “I see my son Majid engulfed in flames jumping from the window and imagine my daughter Anum asleep and oblivious in her bed with no hope or chance of escape. Anum and Majid never got the chance to chase their dreams.
“Many years have passed and I still can’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time. During these few hours of sleep I always dream and find myself calling out for my lost angels, Majid and Anum.”
Their father, Mohammed Khan said: “Until this day, I am a broken man. I still can’t understand how much hate these people had. They knew that my wife and children were inside and didn’t hesitate to think about what they were doing.”
Yesterday at Oxford Crown Court, Fiaz Munshi was jailed by Justice Robin Spencer for 13 years.
He told her: “You have enjoyed years of freedom and family life that you should never have had. The day of reckoning has now arrived.”
He added: “You did not expect to be brought to justice. But justice has a long reach and a long memory.”
She was unanimously found guilty of two counts of manslaughter by the jury on Tuesday, but not guilty of their murder, after almost eight hours of deliberation.
Munshi fled to Pakistan two days before arrests and charges were brought against the other killers.
She returned to Sheffield in 2004, but was not arrested until October last year, due to a police error which meant her return was not flagged.
Throughout yesterday’s proceedings, Munshi showed no emotion, apart from waving to her family before she was sentenced.
An application by her barrister Katy Thorne to adjourn sentencing was dismissed by Mr Justice Spencer.
After Munshi was taken away, Mrs Akhtar thanked the judge saying: “God bless you My Lord. Thank you.”
Balloons released as long wait for justice is finally over
PINK and blue balloons were released outside Oxford Crown Court yesterday by the family of Majid and Anum Khan after their 17-year wait for justice.
Wearing T-shirts with the children’s names and “Justice At Last” written on the front, they gave an emotional statement after Fiaz Munshi was jailed for 13 years.
They thanked the Crown Prosecution Service, Thames Valley Police and the media, for support over the last 17 years.
Shehnaz Akhtar, their oldest sister, struggled to hold back tears as she said: “It has taken 17 years for Fiaz Munshi to be brought to justice for the killings of Majid and Anum.
“This is despite members of the Oxford community who have known her whereabouts ever since she fled the UK.
“She went on to have four children of her own and I hope her family now feel a semblance of the pain she perpetrated on us. Finally after 17 years we can now grieve properly and visit Majid and Anum’s grave together for the first time as a family and with our parents.
“This is the happiest day of our lives and we carried on fighting for Majid and Anum who will always remain deep within our hearts.”
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