A Muslim man who stabbed a Romanian prostitute to death was sentenced to jail for at least 29 years on June 27. 21-year-old Farooq Shah stabbed a knife through Mariana Popa’s chest while riding past her on a bicycle along a stretch of road that is infamous for sex workers in Ilford, Essex. Popa, who was 24-years-old and six weeks pregnant with her second child, had been in Britain for less than a month and was trying to earn money to support her family. Reportedly, Shah did not think it right for Popa to be prostituting herself near the mosque situated nearby though he denied that allegation during trial.
After being stabbed on October 28 last year, Popa staggered into a nearby pizza shop and fell into her pool of blood as Shah rode away on his bike. CCTV footage revealed Shah was waiting around the corner of a garage close to where prostitutes are known to work. The footage also shows Shah stabbing Popa twice in the chest after she walked up to him and attempted to say something.
While Shah’s distinctive appearance matched that of the killer’s as seen on CCTV footage, he claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity.
His lawyer Ian Bourne said, “The footage may be showing another person with very similar characteristics to the defendant. All these images are poor in terms of quality. And the appearance of a bald or shaved head Muslim man with a bushy beard isn't unique in Ilford.”
However, Shah was found guilty of lying about a completely different incident where a stolen phone was found on him but he claimed that a mysterious man had sold the phone to him while he was returning home drunk and high from smoking cannabis the same night of the murder.
Judge Christopher Kinch ruled that Shah be jailed for life and serve at least 29 years behind bars.
“It was an utterly terrible attack which inevitably led to her death. It was carried out with callous indifference on a defenseless woman. Mariana Popa did not stand a chance,” said Kinch.