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Inquest into the death of Sabina Rizvi returns a conclusion that she was unlawfully killed

The inquest into the death of Sabina Rizvi, who was murdered outside Bexleyheath police station in 2003 aged 25, has concluded that she was unlawfully killed.

Posted on 26 March 2024

During the three-week inquest at the Old Bailey, the court heard detailed evidence about the circumstances that led to Sabina’s death.  

Evidence was heard about the investigation into the Audi TT that was the centre of a dispute between Mark Williams and Paul Asbury and others associated with him. Paul Asbury, who was later convicted of the murder of Sabina and the attempted murder of Mark Williams, reported that he had been car jacked by two males on 13 March 2003.  


Sabina Rizvi.

In the days following, Sabina was driving the Audi which she told her family she had purchased via Mark Williams.  

Det Sgt Robert Florio of Bexleyheath Police Station oversaw the allegation by Paul Asbury that he was car jacked. As part of this investigation DS Florio asked Sabina to come into the Bexleyheath Police Station during the evening of 19 March and Sabina attended at around 7pm. Mark Williams, who drove the car into the police station at around 10.25pm was arrested for robbery as he matched the description of one of the car thieves. 

On arrival at the police station, officers found that Mark Williams was wearing a bullet proof vest and he told the police this was because he “moved in certain circles” in South London and was under a permanent threat. In an off-tape conversation with Officers Florio and Horner, Mark Williams informed the police that he was “at war” with certain people in South East London who had access to firearms and he had been told he “would not live” to see the money he demanded back for the car. 

The inquest heard that the police had intelligence that Paul Asbury was associated with notorious criminals including Lee Murray, who had access to firearms, and that Paul Asbury himself was a gun runner. The inquest further heard that Paul Asbury and his associates were in contact with officers at Bexleyheath Police Station throughout the evening when Mark and Sabina were there.  Mark Williams was arrested further for theft of the bullet proof vest and perverting the course of justice. He was allowed to make several calls from the custody suite.

After interview, Mark Williams was bailed pending further enquiries. His bullet proof vest was not returned to him. The police officers offered him a lift in an unmarked police car, which he declined. No similar offer was made to Sabina. Sabina and Mark left the police station together. 

Minutes after leaving the police station, at 02:20 GMT, Sabina was shot dead and later died of her injuries. 

The Rizvi family from London, fought for more than 20 years for a full inquest to fully establish the role the police played in the circumstances surrounding Sabina’s death. 

When the inquest was reopened in February 2019, the coroner ruled that Article 2, the right to life, was engaged.  However in a ruling handed down on 26 March 2024, the Coroner ruled that there was no longer sufficient evidence to mean Article 2 was engaged in this case and directed that the jury could only return a short, neutral narrative conclusion. 

The Rizvi family are represented by solicitor Anna Moore, of law firm Leigh Day and Rajiv Menon KC and Chris Williams of Garden Court Chambers and have been supported by the charity INQUEST.  
 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Sabina’s mother, Mrs Iffat Rizvi said: 

“After waiting 21 years since Sabina’s murder for an inquest to provide some answers about what really happened on the night she died, we are hugely disappointed that the coroner has prevented the jury from returning any conclusion on the facts.  

“Sabina was the heart and soul of our family. Since that terrible night when her life was taken, the devastating impact continues to be felt deeply by us all.  

“We have never been able to make sense of what happened to Sabina on 19 March 2003. We are grateful to the jury for the time they have taken to listen to all of the evidence surrounding Sabina’s death and the questions they asked throughout. Throughout this process a lot has come to light about what was happening in that police station on that night. We are deeply disappointed that at the end of the evidence the coroner ruled that Article 2, the right to life, was not engaged, and that the jury were not able to comment on what happened to Sabina. We feel they have been gagged and this continues to reflect the systemic injustice we have faced since Sabina’s murder.

“Nevertheless, we feel vindicated by facts about police action and inaction that have come to light through this inquest.  It was only in the last seven months that we received much of the key evidence, lots of which was heavily redacted and much of which was shocking to us, including that the police had a conversation with Mark Williams about whether he would receive shots to his head rather than his body; that the police were already carrying out financial investigations of those associated with Sabina’s death and that no CCTV of key parts of the police station were retained following Sabina’s murder.

“Nothing will ever mend our broken hearts at the loss of our much-loved daughter and sister and we will treasure her memory for all of our lives.” 

Leigh Day partner Anna Moore said: 

“The Rizvi family have waited 21 years for this inquest to provide answers about what happened the night Sabina died. During the hearings they have shown incredible strength and courage as they heard difficult evidence, even facing the man responsible for Sabina's murder. It has taken 21 years for many facts to come to light, including that the police had an off-tape conversation with Mark Williams where he was clear about the risk he was facing. The jury heard evidence about the risk that Paul Asbury and his associates posed and the intelligence the police held about this. The Rizvi family strongly believe the police could and should have put in place measures to protect Sabina and if they did, she would not have died. They have campaigned for 21 years for this inquest and whilst they have had some questions answered, the police officers’ refusal to answer many questions means that some issues remain unresolved. 

“The family are deeply disappointed that the Coroner did not allow the jury to return a conclusion that they think reflects what happened on the night Sabina died. They sat through the evidence and consider it was clear that the police knew of the risk Sabina faced and that they did not do enough to protect her. They firmly believe the jury should have been allowed to make determinations on these facts. 

“Whilst nothing can ever repair the loss of their beloved Sabina, the family appreciate that light has at last been shone on the terrible events that took place on the night of her murder even if the jury were not permitted to comment on the facts.” 

Selen Cavcav, on behalf of the charity INQUEST, said:

“Justice has not been served today. Sabina's family waited 21 years to have the opportunity to have the actions of the police to be scrutinised to see if they could have prevented her murder.

"After hearing extremely distressing evidence over three weeks they are today left with more questions than answers. The inquest process is vital for examining state involvement in deaths.

"INQUEST is calling for a duty of candour to be introduced, through a Hillsborough Law, to ensure police and other public servants have to be open and transparent in investigations like this. Anything less is an insult to bereaved families who can't move on until they have all the facts and the true picture of what really happened.”

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Anna Moore

Anna Moore is a partner in the human rights department.

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