Robbery plot ended in man’s fatal stabbing

South Yorkshire Police handout pic of Zabihullah Rafiq who was stabbed outside Bankwood flats in Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield on Sunday May 29, 2011. ''send in
South Yorkshire Police handout pic of Zabihullah Rafiq who was stabbed outside Bankwood flats in Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield on Sunday May 29, 2011. ''send in

ZABIHULLAH Rafiq came to Sheffield to escape war-torn Afghanistan.

But his ambition of a new start ended with his killing as he was robbed of the takings of the pizza takeaway where he worked.

His attackers were Afghan nationals whom he had given work to at the takeaway business in Glossop Road

Hassan Maruf is starting a minimum 26-year sentence after being found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of the murder of the 30-year-old, who was known as Zabi.

Maruf and accomplice Shaffiq Habibi – who is believed to have fled back to Afghanistan – plotted to rob him of £700 in takings as he returned home to Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley last May.

When he tried to resist, he was stabbed through the heart and left dying in a pool of blood.

High Court judge Mr Justice Foskett, sentencing Maruf to a minimum of 26 years in prison, said it was on the basis that Habibi carried the knife and used it.

He told Maruf: “You will have a life when you are eventually released and you will have a child. Zabihullah Rafiq will not. His wife will not have her much-loved husband, their child a father. This was a needless and tragic death and it was born of the greed of you and Habibi.

“You should remember that each day for the rest of your life.”

Zabi became a British citizen in 2009 and was described by police as a hard-working, married man with a baby daughter. He was so trusted that he regularly took home the takings after working the night shift.

For at least two weeks, both Maruf and Habibi had planned to rob Zabi as he returned home in the early hours of the morning with the pizza shop’s cash takings.

Wearing balaclavas and armed with a knife, they stabbed him yards away from the entrance to the home he shared with wife Zyrafete, aged 23, who had also sought refuge in Sheffield, after fleeing Kosovo, and his two-year-old daughter, Maryam.

When police examined a mobile phone found near Zabi’s body, Maruf’s DNA was discovered. Zabi’s and Maruf’s blood and Habibi’s DNA were later found on balaclavas discarded in a plastic bag in Fir Vale.

Both attackers fled the UK but Maruf, who had been living in Hampton Road, Fir Vale, was traced to Marseille in France as he attempted to travel back to Afghanistan using fake ID. He was extradited to the UK.

Maruf admitted manslaughter but denied murder. His defence counsel said Habibi was the ‘prime mover and instigator’ and there was ‘no intention to kill’.

Habibi, aged 30, of Spring Walk, Eastwood, Rotherham, is believed to be in Afghanistan, and police said efforts were still being made to arrest him and return him to the UK.

Det Sgt Anne-Marie Evans said: “We are pleased at the verdict and hope it will give some comfort to the family knowing that justice has been served.

“This was a robbery, all Zabi had on him was £750 but he has lost his life. Maruf by taking part has ruined his life. It was a nasty, unprovoked attack.”

Zyrafete Rafiq said: “We are very happy with the murder conviction but, as a family, we will not rest until Shafiq Habibi is taken to trial and convicted for murder too.”