A pizzeria owner has been jailed for murdering his wife at the family takeaway they ran together and dumping her body in an unmarked woodland grave where it lay undiscovered for six months.
Nezam Salangy, 44, was condemned to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 18 years on Thursday after a six-week trial at Worcester Crown Court found he killed his wife, 28-year-old Zobaidah Salangy, likely at their shop in Bromsgrove.
The trial heard how Salangy sent fake text messages from his wife’s phone in order to cover up her disappearance in March 2020, with prosecutors alleging that he had reported his wife missing to police, telling them “she had gone out for a run and never come back” after leaving him for a “new boyfriend”.
His brothers, Mohammed Yasin Salangi, 34, and 31-year-old Mohammed Ramin Salangi, who lived together in Cardiff’s Adamscroft Place, were also convicted of assisting an offender, by helping him to cover up the murder.
Yasin was jailed for four years and nine months, and his younger brother – who helped move and bury the body – was jailed for six years.
Passing sentence on Thursday, Mr Justice Hilliard accepted that both younger brothers, who each served alongside Allied forces in Afghanistan, were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Condemning aspects of the case as a “shameful” attempt to create a false trail, the judge told Nezam Salangy: “It’s plain that the marriage had been unhappy for some time.”
Ruling that the business owner had considered killing his wife ahead of the murder, the judge told him: “I am sure that you had been violent to her, slapping her on occasions with an open hand and pulling her hair, which made her cut it short.
“Zobaidah had contemplated taking her own life and it is desperately sad that it had come to that. In one recording [found after the murder] you appeared to rule out a divorce and said that either she died or you did.
“It’s clear that the relationship had completely broken down. I am sure you intended to kill her.”
A jury found the 44-year-old, of Austin Road in Bromsgrove, guilty of murder on 3 May after telephone evidence sealed his guilt, with jurors taking 13 hours and 55 minutes to unanimously convict him.
Crown prosecutor Simon Denison QC had told the trial that as a result of the length of time between the 28-year-old math teacher’s murder and the discovery of her body, it had been impossible to determine the exact cause of her death.
Her body was initially missed by police during a first dig at a site near the village of Lower Bentley in April 2020, with officers abandoning the search after having “mistook a hard layer of soil that they reached to be a natural base below which no-one would dig”, Mr Denison said.
However police were “convinced she must be there” and, upon returning to the spot six months later, found her body bound in curtain wire and wrapped in black bin bags and a duvet cover, which matched pillowcases found at the couple’s home.
Her phone was discovered in bubble wrap hidden behind other items on a high shelf at their Prego Pizza shop on Austin Road, along with a second phone used by Salangy to arrange the concealement of the killing with his brothers.
The court heard that Salangy continues to claim that the body found near Bromsgrove was not that of his wife and she is still alive.
Having come to the UK from Afghanistan in 2002 after his family were targeted by the Taliban, Salangy divorced his first wife in 2010 and married Zobaidah, a friend of his sister, in an arranged marriage in 2012, initially settling in Birmingham.
The couple “argued bitterly” on 27 March, the day before she “vanished off the face of the earth”, the prosecuting barrister said.
The court heard that in the following days, Salangy told people his wife had left him “forever”, while claiming she had texted him about a “new boyfriend” and “intended to leave the UK – which she hated – and return to Afghanistan”.
During the sentencing hearing, her family described her as “a kind mother to her children and a responsible wife to her husband”, adding: “Her sadness and suffering was obvious. She would say everything is fine and I’m taking care of the children.”
The 28-year-old was said to have wanted to start a career as a health professional.
“Zobaidah studied in the most difficult conditions in Afghanistan and was accepted to college with high grades. She had many aspirations for Afghanistan and the UK,” her family said.
“She was very brutally taken from us and her children. We will suffer with this for the rest of our lives. This pain, suffering and misery will never go away but what may decrease our pain is if justice is served. Justice may bring comfort to all of us.”
Additional reporting by PA