Justice for Mary Jane
By ELTAN HALİL
Zahid Younis, 36, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 38 years at Southwark Crown Court in London on Thursday for the murder of Mihrican “Jan” Mustafa, 38, and a second victim, Henriett Szucs, 34.
Ms Mustafa, whose mother was from the Karpaz village of Avtepe and father from Kaleburnu, was last seen alive in early May 2018 and reported missing by her sister on May 10, 2018.
The bodies of both women were found in a freezer at Younis’s home in Canning Town, east London, on April 27, 2019.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, one family member said the conviction was “probably the best news we’ve ever had” since learning the fate of Mary Jane, as she was also known.
“Today we’re happy that [Younis] is finally locked up and that he can’t [kill] anyone else,” she said.
Asked to comment on Younis’s refusal to return from his cells for sentencing, the family member said: “If he wasn’t guilty he would have come up and said ‘I’m not guilty, I want an appeal’ … but to hide downstairs like the monster he is shows his true character.”
Another relative said that the death of Mary Jane had been “devastating” and that the “whole family has fallen apart”.
A moving written statement issued on behalf of the family by the Met Police said: “Jan’s death has changed our family forever. From the moment we found out that she was missing, we spent every moment of every hour looking for her and we never for one minute gave up.
“When Jan didn’t come to her daughter’s birthday, she wrote: To mummy – please come back I really miss you. You missed my 11th birthday party (it was the worst party ever) I sat in the corner crying my eyes out looking at your pictures and reading your poems while in my head screaming, ‘where are you! Please mum, come back home.’
“Deep down I knew something wasn’t right because you would never leave your children. They were your world.
“The call from the police will never be forgotten, hearing them words confirming they found my Jan was never real, I still don’t believe it. The moment we told my Auntie and Jan’s children, with an ambulance on standby breaks every part of me; seeing the pain and tears in their eyes.
“She was a gentle being, who still had her whole life ahead of her, to live and watch her children grow. My heart deeply goes out to her children, who are the strongest people that I know. The grief that they are going through compares to no other pain.
“Our family have lost a precious jewel; my Aunt Mary Jane Mustafa was an incredible Aunt, Mother, Sister and Daughter to her family.
“Jan was a fantastic mother. She adored her children. She loved to dance. She was artistic. She was creative. She was beautiful. She was friends with everybody and very funny. She celebrated life. She was optimistic. She never said anything bad about anybody. She would give her last penny to someone in need. She was an angel. She is an angel.
“Sister my angel. God has given you your assignment. Always my sister, forever my angel, you fly into my dreams when I’m asleep. I feel your wings brush against my face, wiping away the tears I shed since I can no longer hold you in my arms, but only in my heart.
“The trial is over, justice has been done. ‘Closure,’ they say. Never. It will not bring my Jan back. I love you my Tilly and I know you are with me.”
Mary Jane had previously been seen with Younis in the Canning Town area and leaving his flat, and phone evidence showed they had been in contact, a Metropolitan Police statement said.
In May or June 2018 Younis had his carpets removed and wooden flooring installed in his flat.
Police searches of Younis’s address found property belonging to both women.
A fingerprint from Mihrican was found in the kitchen and blood from Henriett on the bedroom carpet as well a section of carpet that fitted the living room and hall stored in a shed.
Younis had been in prison between September and November 2018 and his electricity supply disconnected, contributing to the decomposition of the bodies in the freezer and causing a foul smell.
An electricity engineer attended the flat on April 11, 2019, to clear the debt on the meter and Younis came to the door holding a can of air-freshener. The engineer noticed the bad smell. Younis sprayed the air freshener before he let him look at the meters, which were next to the chest freezer. Shortly afterwards Younis abandoned the property and made off.
Following extensive enquiries he was arrested on April 30, 2019, getting into a taxi. He told officers: “It’s my house, it’s my problem. No one else is involved.”
He was charged initially in May 2019 with two counts of preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead body and in February 2020 with murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding said: “This has undoubtedly been a complex case – the conditions in which both women were found were extremely challenging and I commend the extraordinary work of the forensic experts who helped us piece together the injuries they suffered and retrieve as much evidence as possible.
“I also have the highest praise for the officers who went to Younis’s flat that day – it was a good old-fashioned police hunch that made them force open the freezer, intuition that something just wasn’t right.
“I pay tribute to the victims’ families for their bravery, it must seem incomprehensible that their loved ones have lost their lives and then been found in such awful circumstances.
“Younis is a violent, manipulative man with a history of abusing and controlling vulnerable women, often with transient and chaotic lifestyles like Mihrican and Henriett.
“However they lived their lives, these women had families, friends, people who cared about them and they died in a truly awful manner.
“Younis’s actions are repugnant to us all. He lied throughout the trial, fabricating a story about how others had been responsible for both deaths; something he only came up with once he had heard the prosecution case against him. I am thankful the jury carefully considered the weight of the evidence against him and have convicted him today.”
Police had attended Younis’ flat on Friday April 26, 2019, after a friend reported he was missing and that she was concerned for his welfare. There was no answer and officers returned the following day. They forced entry and searched the address.
In a small cupboard containing a gas and electricity meter was also a small chest freezer. It was locked with items stacked on top and flies were gathering.
An officer forced it open with a crowbar and saw a large frozen shape and a foot in a grey Superman sock that were the remains of Mihrican, clothed and wrapped in plastic and a bed sheet.
She was subsequently identified by a distinctive tattoo on her wrist and later through familial DNA.
Police said examination of the remains was extremely complex due to the condition in which they were found.
The freezer was removed from the scene and taken to Walthamstow mortuary where it was X-rayed. This revealed the body of another woman – Henriett – beneath Mihrican. She was wearing pyjamas and wrapped in a sleeping bag and then plastic, which was later established to be the packaging the freezer came in.
The condition of the bodies meant full examination was difficult but each of the women had sustained multiple injuries. Henriett had head injuries and Mihrican’s sternum and larynx were fractured. Both women had numerous rib fractures. The full causes of death could not be ascertained.
The last sighting of Henriett was on August 29, 2016, but it’s thought she died close to November 11, 2016, when Younis bought the freezer, which the prosecution said was for the sole purpose of disposing of her body. He paid £169.99 for it in cash from Curry’s in Beckton that afternoon.
A BBC investigation into the murders claimed that warnings about Younis had been missed. In response to questions from the BBC regarding the death of Mary Jane, Scotland Yard said that “various lines of enquiry were conducted” and that an internal investigation by its professional standards directorate is ongoing. “No officers are currently subject to restrictions,” the force added.