“He was not crying like he was really, really worried.”
A market stall worker was found guilty of murdering his wife while their three children were at school.
Ilyas Muhammad strangled his wife Maria Chavez at their home in Ilford in 2021.
The Old Bailey heard that on the evening of May 13, police were called after Maria was found unresponsive at the Kingston Road property.
When emergency services arrived, they found Maria dead and it was not clear how she died.
A post-mortem examination was ordered and it was found that Maria died from compressions to her neck.
Muhammad was arrested two weeks later and charged with her murder.
During a police interview, Muhammad said he thought his wife had died due to natural causes and throughout the trial, he denied any involvement in her death.
During the trial, a teenage girl told the court that Muhammad allegedly wept “fake tears” upon seeing his wife’s body.
She said: “He was not crying like he was really, really worried.”
The teenager also said that Muhammad, a wholesale fruit and vegetable stall worker, hesitated to call an ambulance, despite Maria’s face being “purple”.
A neighbour eventually called 999.
Whilst waiting for the emergency services to arrive, the girl began performing CPR under the instructions of the NHS call handler.
She said she was “hugging” and touching Maria’s hands, and had noticed “something in her mouth” which was believed to be a bruise.
Julian Evans, prosecuting, said Muhammad’s behaviour had been “a charade” and that he had pretended to be shocked upon finding her body.
A CCTV camera on Kingston Road captured the last time Maria was seen alive.
Maria had been due to attend an appointment but Muhammad contacted the people to say that she “got lost”.
Muhammad left the house at around 4:30 pm and returned two hours later, at which point the discovery of her body was made.
Evidence indicated that Maria was strangled between 1 pm and 4 pm on May 13, after returning from a morning English class.
On June 10, 2022, Muhammad was found guilty of his wife’s murder.
The couple had only moved to England two years prior to the incident.
Detective Chief Inspector Laurence Smith, from the Specialist Crime Command, said:
“Ilyas has not offered any explanation about the circumstances that led to his wife’s death and has refused to accept responsibility for her murder.
“This is a tragic case that has left three children without their parents and I’m sure what they’ve been through will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
“My thoughts are with them and the rest of Maria’s family and friends.”