A phenomenal new title on a harrowing but ground-breaking murder investigation and trial. I felt every emotion under the sun whilst reading this – agony, frustration, anger, sorrow, the exhilaration of justice but also, by the end, tears for a woman who never got to live a full and fulfilling life.
Banaz was a 20-year-old Kurdish woman living in the UK. She disappeared from her home in Lewisham, South London, in January 2006. However, she was not reported missing by her family; instead, the police were alerted to Banaz’s sudden disappearance by her boyfriend, Rahmat.
However, it quickly transpired that Banaz was known to the police. In the weeks leading up to her disappearance she had repeatedly warned the police that her immediate family, relatives and members of the local Kurdish community were trying to kill her for fleeing her violent arranged marriage and starting a new relationship with another young Kurdish man – acts that her family considered a disgrace.
She was even was hospitalised after her brother tried to kill her but, depressingly, these warnings were not heeded and, sure enough, one day she disappeared entirely.
And so the book begins, “Most murder investigations start with a dead body.”
Enter Caroline Goode, the DCI tasked with the investigation of the disappearance and likely murder of Banaz. Caroline wrote this book and, in its pages, she has vividly captured the emotions, challenges and revelations of this hugely complex case.
“Our job was to unravel the confused story and find this woman who had reported her own murder and then gone missing.”
Caroline and her team work tirelessly to understand and unravel this terrible crime that saw an entire community (men and women) collude in the arrangement, execution and cover-up of the murder of Banaz – a victim of that awful phrase “honour-based violence”.
Caroline passionately conveys the challenge of navigating conflicting accounts, hearsay, false leads, and numerous criminal allegations. But this book is at its best as Caroline draws focus on how Banaz’s family were completely uninterested – even obstructive – in the investigation to find her.
This investigation was one of the first successfully prosecuted murders in the UK of a woman who had been murdered by their community for perceived shame and disgrace. It was also the first ever criminal case to successfully extradite charged persons from Iraq to stand trial in the UK.
The investigation chapters are pacey and fascinating, demonstrating how fine a thread these cases can hang on when there is so little admissible evidence to place before a jury. But this book is at its most shocking as it reveals the breadth of collusion in honour killings – and it is at its most hopeful as it demonstrates the hope it has given to women facing similar fears that the UK police force may finally be able to understand and support them.
Let’s be clear though, the police do not come off scot free in Caroline’s honest recollections; she acknowledges that Banaz was let down during her lifetime, the casualty of some dreadfully dismissive behaviour from other police officers (who, thankfully, seem to have been duly disciplined).
This is a terrible true story and the dedication with which Caroline’s team pursued the perpetrators is affecting, but more so because as they come to realise Banaz was shunned by her entire family, it fell to them to ‘adopt’ Banaz as their own sister and to fight to ensure that she could rest in peace. By the end I was in tears.
“Banaz was a caring, loving young woman with the whole of her life in front of her, and that life has been brutally cut short by the very people that should have loved her and protected her, in any terms the ultimate betrayal.”
At times, this book is hard to read but, my goodness, it is necessary. A TV adaption of the book is due to air this Autumn – so read the book first!