Woman jailed for manslaughter in connection with 1997 arson - Oxford

25/07/2014

A woman appeared at Oxford Crown Court today, Friday, 25 July 2014, and was jailed for 13 years for the manslaughter of two children in Oxford in 1997.

Fiaz Begum Munshi, aged 38, of Manley Road, Oldham, Lancashire, was found guilty of the manslaughter of eight-year-old Anum Khan and her 15-year-old brother Majid at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday, 22 July 2014.

Fiaz Munshi was arrested by officers from the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, supported by Greater Manchester Police, in Oldham on 22 October 2013, and charged the following day in connection with the deaths of Majid and Anum in 1997.

The circumstances are that on 26 August 1997, the police and fire service were called to a property, which was on fire in Magdalen Road, Oxford at around 3.20am. Seven members of the Khan/Akhtar family had been asleep in the property when the fire started. They were Mehfooz Akhtar (known as Mrs Khan), four of her daughters, one of her sons, and one of her grandchildren.

Six of the seven occupants escaped from the house.  However, Anum died in the fire and Majid suffered severe burns to his head and body.  Despite being taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford Majid died two days later on 28 August 1997.

Forensic examination of the property found that the fire had been started deliberately with petrol found in the doorway of the house. Searches conducted by the located two plastic bottles, which contained petrol, at a telephone kiosk near to the scene.

Fiaz Munshi and others were arrested on suspicion of murder on 23 September 1997. At this point there was insufficient evidence to charge Fiaz Munshi, so she was released from custody, and on 09 December she flew to Pakistan. Just two days later, as a result of new evidence, a number of arrests were made, and six people charged in connection with the murder of Anum and Majid.

In October and November 1998, the six were tried at Birmingham Crown Court for the murders. Five of them; Alan Swanton, then 19, from Letchworth; Thomas Liedl, then 19, from Letchworth; Mohammed Nawaz, then 21, from Letchworth; Haq Nawaz, then 30, from Letchworth, and Haroon Sharif, then 21, from Letchworth were convicted of murder and jailed for life. The jury could not reach a verdict on the sixth, Riaz Munshi, then 26, from London, who was discharged and re-tried the following year, where she was convicted of manslaughter and sentence to 12 years imprisonment.

In the autumn of 2012, a member of the Khan/Akhtar family contacted Thames Valley Police and made enquiries about Fiaz Munshi. As a direct result of that call, enquiries established that information had been received in 2005, that indicated she had returned to the UK from Pakistan. Following the discovery of this information the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit worked with the Crown Prosecution Service to re-open the investigation leading to Fiaz Munshi being arrested and subsequently charged in October 2013.

A press release including statements from Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, and Detective Inspector Craig Kirby, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit was uploaded to this website on Thursday, 22 July 2014, post conviction.