Police in Italy are hunting the relatives of a Pakistani girl who they believe was strangled and buried in a shallow grave in an alleged honor killing.
Saman Abbas, 18, has been missing since May 1 when she was last seen on CCTV footage at a farm near the town of Reggio Emilia, central Italy, where Father Shabbar, 46, worked.
Police say Shabbar conspired with Saman’s mother Nazia Shaheen, 47, uncle Hasnain Danish, 33, and cousins Nomanulhaq Nomanulahq and Ijaz Ikram, 33 and 28, to kill her and bury her body behind the farm before fleeing the country.
Investigators believe the family members came up with the plot after Saman refused to enter into an arranged marriage with a cousin in Pakistan because she had a boyfriend in Italy and wanted to live a “Western” lifestyle.
Ijaz has since been arrested in France on suspicion of murder and extradited to Italy. Shabbar and Nazia are in Pakistan and have denied their daughter’s murder.
The whereabouts of Hasnain – who prosecutors say was the cause of the murder – and Nomanulhaq are unknown.
Saman Abbas, 18, has been missing in Italy for over a month. Police believe she was killed by her family after refusing forced marriage to cousin in Pakistan Pakistan
Prosecutors say the case dates back to the fall of last year, when the Saman family tried to force an arranged marriage in their native Pakistan.
Saman fled the parental home after an argument and had been living in a social services reception center since October, fearing for her safety.
But she returned home on April 11 this year, apparently to collect identity documents – although it’s unclear exactly why she needed them.
Police believe the family began preparations for her murder on April 26.
That’s the date Uncle Hasnain would have bought plane tickets for her parents to fly back to Pakistan, prosecutors say.
Then, on the evening of April 29, CCTV footage captured three men walking into the fields behind the farm, according to police Hasnain, Nomanulhaq and Ijaz.
The trio carries two spades, a bucket and a blue bag with a crowbar in it. They are gone for about two hours before going home.
Saman (pictured) is said to have infuriated relatives by telling them she had a boyfriend in Italy and wanted to live a ‘western’ life
The next day, Saman reportedly overheard a conversation between her relatives and told her boyfriend that they planned to kill her.
Saman’s friend, who was not at the property, told the Italian newspaper Diary of Reggio Emiliano that she texted him saying she had heard her uncle remark that murder is “the only solution” for girls who disobey Pakistan’s strict codes of honor.
The friend was told to contact the police within two days if she had not messaged him.
The friend said he was trying to reassure her, but she said, “I’m not confident.”
Police say there are more CCTV footage – which have not been published – then show parents Shabbar and Nazia walking their daughter into the fields behind the farm at nine minutes past midnight on May 1.
The couple returned just 13 minutes later, father Shabbar carrying a backpack Saman had previously carried.
Police believe the parents handed over Saman to her uncle and cousins who were waiting in the fields who killed her and buried her body somewhere on the farm.
The family then left home – Shabbas and Nazia to Pakistan, ostensibly to visit a sick relative, while Ijaz moved into Europe.
When the police called the family farm looking for Saman on May 5, they found Hasnain and Saman’s 16-year-old brother at home, explaining that the rest of the family had gone to Pakistan to see a sick relative. Courier service reports.
Then the couple also disappeared. On May 9, they were arrested near the Italian border with France because the brother did not have his identity papers with him.
CCTV released by Italian police reportedly shows Saman’s uncle and two cousins taking a shovel (pictured left), a bag and a crowbar in the fields behind the family home before she disappeared
Hasnain was released, but the brother was detained. During his questioning by the police, he told them about his suspicions that Hasnain had orchestrated his sister’s murder with the help of his relatives.
The boy claims that the whole family was afraid of Hasnain, who he says strangled his sister after an argument over identity documents.
He claimed to have heard the argument the night his sister disappeared, before seeing his father come home in tears, followed by his uncle and cousins.
Based on the teen’s testimony, police have now issued arrest warrants against the family on suspicion of first-degree murder and concealment of a body.
A phone has since been discovered that allegedly contains a text message sent by Hasnain to a friend that simply reads, “Well done.” According to the police, this was a reference to the murder.
Ijaz was then arrested in France on June 6 when he boarded a bus to Barcelona, where he is said to have relatives.
He was extradited back to Italy, where he arrived on Wednesday this week. Hasnain and Nomanulhaq are also thought to be somewhere in Europe, but their exact whereabouts are unknown.
Shabbar and Nazia are in Pakistan and have spoken to Italian journalists to deny the murder of their daughter, who they say is alive and living in Belgium. Prosecutors want the couple extradited.
Meanwhile, the farm continues to be searched to try and find Saman’s body.
Electromagnetic scanners have been deployed along with sniffer dogs to try to locate the remains, while also dredging waterways.
“The search for the remains of the injured person, who unfortunately we believe is dead, continues,” prosecutor Isabella Chiesi told Reppublica.
“I would not give positive feedback on what the father said, we have determined that the girl is not in Belgium.”
The case has shocked Italy as the Union of Islamic Communities has issued a religious ruling condemning forced marriages following Saman’s disappearance.