"I thought he wasn’t a good influence on Amani."
An inquest has heard that a woman killed by her boyfriend was strangled with a dressing gown tie at her home in East London.
Amani Iqbal was found lying in the bathtub three days after she was killed on New Year’s Eve 2020.
A post-mortem found that Amani had died from compression to the neck, with police confirming that no other person aside from Jay Dawes had entered the property during the time period.
In a written statement, Amani’s mother Samina Iqbal said:
“The circumstances around Amani’s tragic death are to this day unclear and our family are still in shock trying to make sense of such a sad and unexpected event.”
After studying economics at Durham University, Amani went travelling with a previous boyfriend.
She then pursued a career in marketing, which led her to accept a marketing propositions manager job at Sainsbury’s in 2018.
During that period, she embarked on a romance with Jay and bought a two-bedroom flat in Walthamstow.
Ms Iqbal said: “During this time, we often had them over and went to their house for lunch.
“However, I soon saw him undermining her friendships with her closest school friends by belittling them, which turned her against them to some degree.
“After one year, Jay unexpectedly changed and decided he no longer wanted to be with Amani.
“She came back to live with me. I was taken aback by the fact they broke up but she never completely broke away from him. She kept speaking and sporadically meeting with him.”
Ms Iqbal said that her daughter had confided in her about Jay’s “depression, instability, previous suicide attempts, his mental health, his lack of employment and growing debts”.
This led Amani to lend him large amounts of money, and her mother felt Jay “had only got back with Amani in 2019 after she bought a flat and he had nowhere to live”.
Ms Iqbal added: “I started to detach myself from Jay as I thought he wasn’t a good influence on Amani.”
Ms Iqbal said she last saw Amani on New Year’s Eve, where they had “a good time and a laugh”.
In the evening, she sent Amani a text but received no response, which she believed was “unusual”.
CCTV footage showed the couple walking “hand-in-hand” from a supermarket near their flat at 3:59 pm that day.
Amani’s last known phone call had been at 6:15 pm to order a pizza.
Her last sighting was at 9:01 pm where she appeared upset on the balcony of her flat.
At 9:52 pm, Jay made several calls and texts to his friend Bryan Alexander and he was then seen at 10:14 pm using a cashpoint outside Sainsbury’s, before travelling to visit Mr Alexander in North London.
Taking to the witness stand, Mr Alexander said:
“On New Year’s Eve 2020, I got a call from Jay in the evening, he said that he had gotten rid or broken up with his girlfriend.
“I can’t remember the exact words but he said he had gotten another girlfriend, broken up with her and now he was happy again. He seemed upbeat.”
The pair were together for around 10 minutes before Jay left.
Meanwhile, a message was sent from Amani’s phone shortly after midnight to wish her friends and family a Happy New Year from her and Jay.
Ms Iqbal said: “In addition, as a family, we believe that the texts sent to her dad and her school friends in a group chat about New Year’s wishes were not sent by Amani.
“The grammar was incorrect and there was a typo, Amani would not have made these errors.”
Jay met Mr Alexander on New Year’s Day.
He also used Amani’s bank card to withdraw £250 from a cashpoint, as well as purchasing water and bags of ice.
On January 2, he used Amani’s card to make another two transactions of £250 and order a pizza.
But that evening, he crashed into a parked lorry in a lay-by on the A11 and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jay had been seeing a psychotherapist in the weeks before he died.
Police attended Jay’s grandmother’s address, who was the registered owner of the Peugeot.
After being informed that he resided with Amani at a flat in Walthamstow, officers visited during the early hours but received no response.
They returned shortly before 8 am on January 3, where they found Samina Iqbal, who told them she was concerned about her daughter as she had not responded to text messages since New Year’s Eve.
Upon entering the flat, they found the woman’s body in the bathroom.
Whilst there were “no signs of sexual assault or a sustained prolonged attack”, there were “several items smashed in the flat” and a clump of her hair was found in the hallway as well as blood on the door hinge.
Speaking on behalf of the family, lawyer Rachel Barrett said:
“We do submit on behalf of the family that not only is it the most likely cause of Amani’s death, it is the only explanation given the evidence that we’ve heard.
“We’re not here looking at remote theoretical possibilities.
“We heard from the pathologist that significant pressure was applied to Amani’s neck for 15 to 30 seconds with a ligature.
“It is an unlawful act, which was objectively dangerous and actively likely to cause harm and Amani died as a result.”
Jay’s family argued that it would be “unfair to go on probabilities” and that he was “the most placid person” but Area Coroner Nadia Persaud concluded:
“Amani Iqbal was found lying in the bath with a t-shirt that had been partially removed.
“A crime scene manager and a homicide team car attended. The crime scene manager noticed bruising to Amani’s neck that looked in keeping with strangulation.
“A broken section of a dressing gown belt was found in the bathroom and was considered to have been used as a ligature. It was not found around her neck.”
While the pathologist raised the “theoretical possibility” that Amani could have caused the injuries to herself, the ligature would have remained around her neck had there been no third-party involvement.
A specialist bone pathologist confirmed that the key injuries were “strongly indicative of third party involvement”.
“I heard evidence from the police investigation which concluded that no other third party had been into Amani’s address between New Year’s Eve and January 3, and Jay Dawes had purchased bags of ice which were the same bags of ice found on top of her body.
“The police investigation concluded that Amani’s partner had caused her death, it was not possible to establish any intent.”
She also noted that Amani had no history of self-harm or a mental health disorder, was not known to any local mental health trusts, had not made any searches referencing suicide and there was no suggestion of a “suicide pact” between her and Jay.
At the end of the hearing, Amani’s family said:
“At only 28 years of age, Amani Iqbal was sadly taken from us at the end of 2020 under very tragic circumstances.
“Amani was an incredible and vivacious young woman.
“She was an overachiever who without doubt would have gone on to do wonderful things. She touched the hearts of so many people around her, leaving behind a legacy of love and laughter. She is sorely missed by many.
“The inquest draws to a close a long and painful process that we have had to face as a family.
“We thank our family and friends for their love and support during this time. The family respectfully request privacy to heal in peace after this terrible ordeal.”