This was the moment DCI Caroline Goode had feared the most, when Banaz Mahmod’s case went from missing persons inquiry to murder investigation.
Viewers witnessed the turning point tonight in ITV true-life drama Honour, when one of the murderers was heard bragging about the so-called “honour killing” on a prison phone being tapped by police.
The scene, with Keeley Hawes as DCI Goode, horrified viewers.
But Jasvinder Sanghera, who campaigns against forced marriages, warns: “I’m telling you now, another Banaz could and will happen.
“What this film will do is bring home to people this is happening here in Britain and it’s not on the decrease, it’s on the increase.
“We have no idea how many victims are affected by it as it’s multiple perpetrators within a family dynamic abusing them.”
Honour tells how, in 2006, Banaz, 20, was abused and tortured for two hours before being killed in her own family’s South London home.
It was the price she paid for fleeing her arranged marriage.
Her attackers Mohamad Hama, Mohammed Saleh Ali and Omar Hussain murdered her on the command of her father Mahmod Mahmod and uncle Ari Mahmod, who did not approve of her new boyfriend, Rahmat Suleimani.
Jasvinder, who founded the Karma Nirvana charity in 1993 in memory of sister Robina, who died after setting herself on fire to escape an abusive marriage, advised on the drama.
At the age of 16, Jasvinder herself ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage, which she feared would be violent and desperate.
She hoped running away would make her parents change their minds about the marriage and they would just want their little girl safely back home in Derby.
Jasvinder, now 55, says. “What I didn’t expect them to say was, ‘You’re dead in our eyes and I hope you amount to nothing, that you have a daughter who becomes a prostitute as that’s what you are to us.’ That’s what my mother said to me. I was cut off.
“They don’t talk to me or my children. The price I paid was being rejected. The price some pay is murder.”
Tragically, that was the price Banaz paid.
After she fled from her husband, she claimed in a police interview that he had raped her, saying: “When he raped me it was like I was his shoe that he could wear when he wanted to. I didn’t know if this was normal in my culture, or here. I was 17.”
Banaz, who moved to the UK aged 12 with her family as they fled conflict in Iraq, went to the police five times telling them she feared her family was trying to kill her, but no one listened until it was too late.
Jasvinder says: “I am not sure today if a victim goes into a police station that he or she is not going to get the same response Banaz got.”
It has been 14 years since Banaz died, yet in England and Wales, just three of 43 police forces have been recognised as “prepared” to respond to honour-based abuse.
Like Banaz, Jasvinder also “brought great shame” on her family when she refused the arranged marriage.
She says: “Today my family still view me as having no shame. Someone who has dishonoured the family. And I say my honour is their shame. I was disowned.”
There are 12 to 15 reported honour killings a year in the UK but this figure, Jasvinder says, barely skims the surface.
She says: “Actually we have no idea how many murders happen in a year, how many unmarked graves there are in India, Pakistan, Egypt, Kurdistan. These girls can get taken out of the country to be dealt with. British-born subjects are being murdered by family members for embracing British values, which are rooted in independence and freedom.”
Since leaving the home of her Sikh parents, who moved to England from India in the 1950s, Jasvinder has campaigned against honour-based abuse. After Robina’s horrific death the family was told never to speak of her again. Jasvinder says: “My mother was very clear about that.
“That’s why I set up the charity in her memory.
“They all have blood on their hands – if you could prevent a life-threatening event, you are culpable.
“I would say that about the police in terms of Banaz and other cases where the victims were let down.”
In 2014, Jasvinder successfully campaigned for forced marriage to become illegal, but so far there have been two convictions in more than 1,000 cases. Lockdown has made it worse for many vulnerable people.
She says: “These victims are chaperoned everywhere. School, college, or even at a GP practice where they might see a doctor alone, it’s gone. They are completely isolated.”
Jasvinder hopes Honour will open people’s eyes, but fears nothing will change. She says: “We’ll watch this film, we’ll be deeply moved and think, ‘This is horrific.’ But then what?”
- If you or anyone you know needs help, ring the Karma Nirvana helpline on 0800 5999 247. Honour continues Tuesday night, ITV, 9pm.