Wednesday, 3 January 2007

The Murder of Yvonne Heap

On 26 April 2003, mother-of-three Yvonne Heap was attacked outside Cowley police station in Oxford. She died in hospital two days later.

During a night out with friends the day before Yvonne died, her estranged partner, Nahed Akhter, said:

"The next time you see me will be when you visit me in jail. This will be my last night of freedom."
Akhter's friend, David Innes, told Oxford Crown Court:

"Hector (Akhter's nickname) said that if he couldn't see the children, then neither would she. He was smiling when he said it. He said 'I won't go to prison because I'll top myself'... He kept going, 'someone's got to die' and he repeated it so many times."
Innes also said that he felt Akhter needed help, that he was not an aggressive man and that his children were very important to him.

Anthony Thomas, another of Akhter's friends, was so concerned by his behaviour that he spent the night at his house. He awoke in the night to the sound of Akhter sharpening knives in the kitchen. And yet, the very next day he drove Akhter around Oxford to help him find Yvonne.

In court Thomas said that he was very concerned about Akhter's behaviour that day, he was wearing a black anorak, which had knives in the inside pockets. He called another friend, Martin Berley, who said:

"That man's eyes were totally focused. They had a green tinge, like a wolf. He had absolutely no expression. I told him 'think of your children'. He said he was going to kill Yvonne and we couldn't be with him all the time."
Although Berley persuaded Akhter to hand over his knives before taking his children out, he had attacked Yvonne within the hour.

She had gone to the police station with a friend to complain that Akhter had been harassing her. He had poured paint stripper on her car and had also sent her a video of a documentary about a cousin who had been killed by her husband.

The court was told that Akhter was furious that Yvonne had found a new boyfriend just a month after leaving their home.

Yvonne's sister, Margaret Carney, said that Akhter had phoned her from outside the police station. He told her that he had just seen Yvonne in a car with two men. She heard him approach the car and say:

"Is that what's going on? Is that who he is?"
The last words Margaret heard from him were:

"Yvonne, you could do with a shave."
He then stabbed her 12 times in the head, face, neck, chest, hands and legs with a large kitchen knife. Sergeant Colin Payne struck Akhter three times with his baton before he was subdued.

After he was arrested, the police searched his home and found a second knife, plastic ties, a pair of handcuffs and a crossbow catalogue. In his diary he had made a shopping list of weapons and written a note about a crossbow company next to the words:

"Cupid's arrow will bring our love back again forever."
Psychiatrist Michaell Aldcock said at his trial that Akhter, whose sister suffers from schizophrenia, had a history of mental illness himself, and had made a 'very serious suicide attempt' in 1986.

Incredibly, the jury failed to reach a verdict after the first trial. After the second, Akhter was found guilty of murder and Judge Julian Hall sentenced him to life in prison. In a statement, Yvonne's family said:

"Yvonne's calls to the police remained unanswered and this to us was, and is, totally unacceptable. To this end we feel we owe it to Yvonne and women like her, to ask why? The loss of a loved one is never easy, but to lose such a wonderful and loving mother, daughter and sister in such an evil way has at times become unbearable...

Yvonne's death has highlighted to us the problems that women like Yvonne have to face when they call for help."
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Taylor, of Thames Valley Police, said:

"I have assured them that we have learnt lessons from this case."
So that's all right then.

What can we learn from this case?

Let's just look at some of the things Akhter's 'friends' said and did. David Innes said:

"Hector said that if he couldn't see the children, then neither would she. He was smiling when he said it. He said 'I won't go to prison because I'll top myself... He kept going, 'someone's got to die' and he repeated it so many times."
Pretty clear statement of intent, wouldn't you say? I would say the chap who said these things had murder on his mind. So, what did David Innes do?

Nothing.

However, in court. he said he wanted it put on record that poor old Akhter needed help, that he was not aggressive and that his children were very important to him.

Not aggressive, son? Are you kidding me? How about if I come round to your place and stuff a carving knife up your a*** 12 times, would you really testify in court that I wasn't being 'aggressive?'

What about Yvonne, David? What about a woman who died such a terrible death? Why are so concerned to have your heart bleed for a poor, Asian murderer who slaughtered the mother of his children, than sympathise with the innocent woman who was the object of his lunatic brutality?

What about three kids with no mother to care for them, David? Do you think that proves Akhter's 'children were very important to him?'

Oh, and David, just one more thing. Why didn't you inform the police of the things Akhter was saying in the pub the night before he murdered Yvonne?

Never mind, I expect someone from one of the major political parties will be knocking on your door pretty soon asking if you'll stand as their Member of Parliament in the next general election.

Anthony Thomas 'was so concerned by his behaviour that he spent the night at his house. He awoke in the night to the sound of Akhter sharpening knives in the kitchen.'

However, he didn't call the police either. Instead, the following day, 'he drove Akhter around Oxford to help him find Yvonne.'

Thomas said that Akhter was wearing a black anorak which had knives in the inside pockets. He still didn't think to call the police. Instead he called another of Akhter's friends, Martin Berley, who said:

"That man's eyes were totally focused. They had a green tinge, like a wolf. He had absolutely no expression. I told him 'think of your children'. He said he was going to kill Yvonne and we couldn't be with him all the time."
Berley, likewise, did not call the police.

Innes, Thomas and Berley.

Great friends of an Asian nutcase, No friend at all of Yvonne Heap and those who loved her.

Sergeant Colin Payne managed to stop the attack.

He was forced to strike Akhter three times with his baton before he was subdued. A question for you Colin. Was Akhter still stabbing Yvonne, when you were hitting him? It occurs to me that the first thing a policeman ought to have done in such circumstances was to prevent the victim from further attack.

It also occurs to me that, if you're going to whack a would-be murderer over the head whilst he is in the commission of a murder, you'd best be armed with an iron bar and not the wooden or the extendable metal twig that the average British bobby carries.

I'm not questioning your courage son, but if Yvonne suffered the deathblow because you put your faith in the efficacy of the policeman's truncheon, I am questioning your judgement.

What would I have done? I'd have wrapped myself around his flailing arms and dragged him to the floor.

Obvious, really.

Then I'd have whaled the shit out of him. With fist, forehead, elbow, teeth, boot, twiggy baton, 17 stones of British beef and anything else that came to hand.

Perhaps this is what you did, Colin, and it was not made clear in court. If so, my apologies to you.

However, if a politically correct training manual instructed you to give the murderous perpetrator a polite tap on the noggin, coincidental with a gentlemanly request that he desist from his dastardly deeds, instead of encouraging you to do your worst on behalf of his innocent victim, well...

It's your conscience, son.

The original jury failed to reach a verdict. Perhaps the parents, teachers and PC pals of Anthony Thomas, Martin Berley and David Innes were deciding Akhter's fate that day.

Or, perhaps there were some on the jury who were predisposed to take Akhter's ethnicity into account when they cast their vote.

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