Family no closer to truth 20 years on from Oldbury taxi driver's brutal murder
The family of a taxi driver who was murdered in his Sandwell home believe crucial information to finally solve the case is still out there, as they launched a fresh plea for answers to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.
Father-of-nine Zafar Mehdi was stabbed to death at his home on Basons Lane, Oldbury, in June 2000, and two decades on no-one has been convicted over his death.
His wife, Julie Mehdi, was suspected of killing him but was cleared by a jury in just 90 minutes after standing trial in 2002. She had claimed two men forced their way into the house and attacked her husband, an account she stands by today.
Julie and son Shabaz, who was 12 when his father was killed, say they had no contact with police following the trial and feel the claims about the two attackers were never properly investigated.
The family has since had to deal with the fact no-one has been convicted for killing Zafar, who was 44, and described as a respected, community-minded man, while, despite being found not guilty by a jury who clearly didn’t buy the prosecution’s version of events, Julie has had to carry the tag of being a former suspect in her husband’s murder.
Julie, 53, said: “It was devastating at the time as the only witness of the crime to be accused of doing it.
“It was something I witnessed, it was going on in my head constantly. I would still recognise the faces of the perpetrators, I would still know today.”
She says she was in the front garden when two black men came to the house. They then forced their way in and attacked her husband. The mother was inconsolable after the attack and was shouting and screaming in the street. The emergency call handler said during the trial she had never heard anyone as hysterical on the end of the phone.
“It was terrible (being a suspect),” she said. “I always kept hope in my heart they were going to solve it. When they charged me I felt devastated.”
The case against Julie surrounded a claim that Zafar could be heard saying she had stabbed him on a recording of her 999 call, but doubt has been cast about what was actually said.
Her defence team dismissed the prosecution case as “circumstantial”, while the jury returned their not guilty verdict in double-quick time.
The family instead believe Zafar was involved in some kind of dispute in the weeks leading up to his death, and have pointed to a possible confrontation in the nearby George pub. They believe someone may have taken their revenge.
Shabaz, now 32, said “wild theories” about his mother’s involvement ruined the investigation and so far dashed the opportunity to find the real killers.
He said: “Because of the wall of silence they faced in the community, the police came out with this theory this is what has been said but it wasn’t. They blamed mum and turned away from the real killers. It was totally unfair and unfounded.”
Although Shabaz says his father could “look after himself” if necessary, he insists he wasn’t the sort of person to go looking for trouble and does not know of anyone who would want to hurt him, aside from the possible dispute.
“We are 1,000 per cent confident as a family it was something that happened in the last eight to 10 weeks of his life,” he said.
Supermarket worker Shabaz insists the answers about who killed his father are still out there, and hopes the passage of time may convince some with information it is now time to come forward.
The family are aiming to raise £10,000 to put up as a reward.
Shabaz said: “If you have any sense of a guilty conscience and know who has done this please speak out. I don’t want to carry this for another 20 years.”
Detective Inspector Justin Mason-Spanner, from West Midlands Police CID, said: “Although there are no fresh, active lines of investigation we review unsolved murders on a periodic basis to see if policing advancements can assist a case.”
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “I understand that the hurt of losing a loved one never goes away. The fact that no-one has ever been brought to justice only adds to the distress that Mr Mehdi’s family are feeling.
“West Midlands Police reviews unsolved murders to see if advancements in policing and technology can help solve cases.
“I would urge anybody who has any information to contact the police."
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