"He left the suitcase concealed there"
An obsessive man who followed a woman from Pakistan to the UK then suffocated her with a facemask and stuffed her body into a suitcase faces life in jail.
The Old Bailey heard how Muhammad Arslan and Hina Bashir grew up in the same village in the Faisalabad district of Pakistan.
From the age of 11, Ms Bashir had been allegedly befriended via text message by Arslan, then aged 17.
At one point, Arslan declared: “How wonderful it is that I have found my princess in the house right next to mine.”
Ms Bashir rejected his advances and had a boyfriend in Pakistan.
She had another after moving to the UK in November 2021 to study business management at Coventry University’s London campus.
A few months later, Arslan followed her, enrolling at the University of Essex for a master’s degree in data science and applications and working part-time in a warehouse.
He told friends she was his fiancée and sent her messages saying she was his “life”.
Arslan already had a master’s degree in maths and quantum physics from the University of Faisalabad and had given up a job as a pharmacy manager to travel to the UK.
On the evening of July 11, 2022, Ms Bashir and two female friends visited Arslan’s flat in Ilford to collect some belongings she had left there while moving.
When she did not come out, her friends had to leave without her and the student was never seen alive again.
He forced a floral patterned facemask into Ms Bashir’s mouth, suffocating her.
Afterwards, he stuffed her body into a suitcase and dumped it in some bushes.
In court, his obsessive behaviour was highlighted as he had edited an image of himself and Ms Bashir inside love hearts.
He also edited a photograph of a cake with the words “Happy Birthday Hina Arslan” on it.
Even after the killing, he looked at messages and photographs on Hina’s phone and took pictures of images of her with other young men.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson KC said: “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, he deleted his contacts from Ms Bashir’s phone, lied to police about her disappearance and made inquiries about travelling to Northern Ireland and Birmingham.
He initially denied involvement in her death before insisting that he only meant to quieten her after he confronted her over naked photographs of her that he had been sent.
Arslan claimed: “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 facemask went inside.”
The victim’s blood was found on Arslan’s bed and the matching facemasks.
The taxi driver confirmed taking Arslan and his heavy suitcase.
CCTV footage also captured Arslan leaving his flat with the suitcase. His DNA was identified on the suitcase handle and soil from the deposition site was found on his shoes.
On his phone, Arslan repeatedly declared his love for Ms Bashir 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 fiancée but he still wanted to have a relationship.
The prosecution rejected his explanation and stated he had killed her out of anger and jealousy.
He admitted manslaughter but denied murder and perverting the course of justice.
But the jury found him guilty of the charges.
He faces life in prison when he is sentenced on June 23, 2023.