Obsessed murderer followed woman from Pakistan to UK then suffocated her with Covid mask

An obsessive man who followed a woman from Pakistan to the UK then suffocated her with a Covid mask and stuffed a suitcase coontaining her body into bushes is facing life in jail.

Muhammad Arslan, 27, forced a floral patterned mask into the mouth of 21-year-old Hina Bashir after she visited his shared flat in Ilford, east London, in July last year.

He claimed he had only meant to quieten her after he confronted her over naked photographs of her that he had been sent.

But the prosecution rejected his explanation as ‘elaborate and concocted’ and asserted he had killed her out of anger and jealousy.

Arslan had followed the business management student from their home village in Pakistan after becoming obsessed with her when she was a child. 

Muhammad Arslan, 27, forced a floral patterned mask into the mouth of 21-year-old Hina Bashir (pictured) after she visited his shared flat in Ilford, east London, in July last year

He admitted manslaughter on the first day of his trial but denied murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing Ms Bashir’s body.

A jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for five hours and 20 minutes to find him guilty of the charges.

Ms Bashir’s family in court expressed relief as the verdicts were delivered while Arslan stood impassively in the dock with his arms crossed.

The court heard how Arslan and Ms Bashir grew up in the same village in the Faisalabad district of Pakistan.

From the age of 11, Ms Bashir had been befriended via text message by the then 17-year-old defendant, it was alleged.

At one point, Arslan declared: ‘How wonderful it is that I have found my princess in the house right next to mine.’

Ms Bashir went on to reject his advances and had a boyfriend in Pakistan and another after moving to the UK in November 2021 to study business management at Coventry University’s London campus, the court heard.

Within months of her arrival, Arslan had followed her, enrolling at the University of Essex for a masters degree in data science and applications and working part-time in a warehouse, jurors heard.

He told friends Ms Bashir was his fiancée and sent her messages saying she was his ‘life’. 

Arslan already had masters degree in maths and quantum physics from the University of Faisalabad and had given up a job as the manager of a pharmacy to travel to the UK, jurors were told.

On the evening of July 11 last year, Ms Bashir and two female friends had visited Arslan’s flat to collect some belongings she had left there while moving.

When Ms Bashir did not come out, her friends had to leave without her and the student was never seen alive again, jurors were told.

Hina’s blood was found on his bed and facemasks with the same pattern as the one found in her mouth were found in his home.

Having killed her, Arslan put her body into a suitcase in the bedroom he shared with a friend and stored it there overnight.

Arslan had become increasingly obsessed with Ms Bashir and jurors were shown an image he had edited of himself and Hina both inside love hearts.

He had also edited a photograph of a cake with the words ‘Happy Birthday Hina Arslan’ on it.

Even after he killed her he looked at messages and photographs on Hina’s phone and took pictures of images of her with other young men.

A jury at the Old Bailey (pictured) deliberated for five hours and 20 minutes to find him guilty of the charges

A jury at the Old Bailey (pictured) deliberated for five hours and 20 minutes to find him guilty of the charges

Prosecutor Gareth Patterson KC had told jurors: ‘The next morning, the defendant set off from his house, dragging behind him a suitcase containing Hina Bashir’s dead body.

‘He got a lift from a taxi driver who lived in his house and travelled to an industrial estate by the M25 near Upminster, near a business where he was employed as a warehouse worker.

‘He got out of the taxi and dragged his suitcase to the side of a lane where he hid it in some undergrowth. He left the suitcase concealed there in the days that followed.’

After the killing, Arslan had deleted his contacts from Ms Bashir’s phone, lied to police about Ms Bashir’s disappearance and made inquiries about travelling to Northern Ireland and Birmingham.

He initially denied involvement in her death despite the ‘wealth of evidence’, jurors heard.

He then insisted her death had all been a terrible accident during an argument.

Arslan said: ‘I was trying to stop her from shouting and trying to keep her calm.

I was just trying to stop her and maybe the Covid mask goes in her mouth.

‘It was out of my attention, what was happening. I was just trying to stop her and during this time my face mask went inside.

Ms Bashir’s blood was found on Arslan bedclothes, matching floral face masks were recovered from his home and the taxi driver confirmed taking the defendant and his heavy suitcase to the industrial estate where it was dumped .

CCTV footage also captured Arslan leaving his house with the suitcase and then later dragging it along the lane to where it was eventually discovered, Mr Patterson said.

Arslan’s DNA was also identified on the suitcase handle and soil from the deposition site was found on his shoes.

An examination of his phone revealed the extent of his obsession with Ms Bashir before and after she travelled to the UK.

He had repeatedly declared his love for her and reacted with shock on learning she had found someone else.

Mr Patterson said: ‘The police also found on his phone a very large number of photographs of Hina Bashir, some of them having been ‘photoshopped’ or altered using software or apps.

‘They found pictures of her on which love hearts had been added and they found collages that had been created of her image. The evidence suggests that he was obsessed with her.

‘However, it appears Hina Bashir did not want to be with him and in fact had a relationship after she came here with another young man.’

In his evidence, Arslan claimed that he had been friends with Ms Bashir since she was 11 and romance had followed, even though they could not meet openly for cultural reasons.

He admitted it was a ‘fantasy’ that she was his fiancee but he still wanted to have a relationship.

Following the guilty verdicts on Wednesday, Judge Richard Marks KC remanded Arslan into custody to be sentenced on Friday.

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