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Mahek Bukhari on Instagram, and in police custody
By George Torr
BBC News

Mahek Bukhari was a burgeoning TikTok star, with a mother who enthusiastically supported her influencer daughter. But an ill-fated affair saw both their lives unravel into deceit, blackmail, and ultimately murder.

Mahek, from Stoke-on-Trent, had set her sights on a social media career after dropping out of university.

It was starting to pay off. She had nearly 129,000 followers and was earning an income through brand promotions – with parties and product launch events up and down the country.

She also boasted about an “elite relationship” with her mother, Ansreen, who often joined in her videos.

But when Ansreen met 21-year-old Saqib Hussain, it sparked a chain of events that ended in tragedy, and ultimately saw both mother and daughter convicted of double murder.

Both have now been sentenced to life in prison, with Mahek ordered to serve at least 31 years and eight months, and Ansreen given a minimum term of 26 years and nine months.

The affair

Ansreen and Saqib first began chatting online in 2019, through video app Azar.

They exchanged numbers and were soon talking every day. The relationship was on and off, but lasted about three years.

Det Insp Mark Parish, from Leicestershire Police, said Ansreen was “flattered” by the interest Saqib showed in her.

Ansreen and Saqib first met on a video chat app

He said they met numerous times – in hotels, restaurants and shisha lounges.

But in 2021, the relationship started to turn sour. Ansreen tried to break it off, and Saqib was upset.

Struggling to deal with her rejection, he pleaded with her to reconsider. Things escalated, until Saqib threatened to send explicit material of his ex-lover to her husband.

At the end of that year, Ansreen cracked and told her daughter everything. But instead of going to police about the blackmail, Mahek decided to take matters into her own hands.

“Knowing the family of Saqib and having been with them throughout, I know they would have dealt with Saqib and stopped him from doing what he was doing,” Det Insp Parish said.

“If [the Bukahris] would have spoken to the police, this would not have happened. It would not have got to this stage.”

The plot

In a bid to help her mother, Mahek turned to her friend – car mechanic Rekan Karwan.

The pair plotted to lure Saqib to a meeting by offering to hand over £3,000. This was the amount of money he’d complained he spent on Ansreen while they were lovers.

Rekan enlisted the help of his best friend – Raees Jamal – as well as Raees’ cousin Ameer Jamal, and other friends Sanaf Gulummustafa, Natasha Akhtar and Mohammed Patel.

Rekan and Raess were the drivers during the chase, while the others were passengers

In the early hours of 11 February 2022, the group arrived at a Tesco supermarket in Leicester, and waited for Saqib. The plan was to ambush him.

In Banbury – Saqib’s home town – he was trying to arrange a lift to get to Leicester.

He asked a few friends. One of them, Hashim Ijazuddin, offered to drive him.

“Hashim doesn’t know anything that’s going on, he’s a friend of Saqib’s and he just agreed to drive Saqib to Leicester on the night in question – totally innocently,” Det Insp Parish said.

“He knew none of the defendants, knew nothing about what’s going on and in some respects is probably the only person who is at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The chase

Saqib and Hashim arrived at the Tesco car park at 01:17 GMT. They slowed down and waited for a few seconds, but sensed something was wrong.

They quickly left the scene, but their Skoda was followed by two cars – a blue Seat Leon, driven by Raees, and an Audi TT with Rekan behind the wheel.

Mahek and Ansreen’s trial heard they were passengers in the Audi.

Saqib and Hashim’s Skoda leaving the Tesco car park

At this point, police knew from phone records that Mahek called Saqib.

“It gets quite heated,” Det Insp Parish said. “But we never know what is said.

“But words are exchanged.”

One minute after this conversation, Saqib called 999.

He told the operator he was a passenger in a car that was being followed. He said the car behind was trying to ram him off the road.

The frantic call lasted about five minutes as Saqib and Hashim continued down the dual carriageway, going through a red light in an effort to lose their pursuers.

The two men were chased to their deaths on the A46

“One of the first things he talks about is being blocked in, and sure enough, the footage from a car dealership clearly shows the car being blocked in with a vehicle in front trying to brake and stop the car,” Det Insp Parish said.

“You can hear [on the call] Saqib say to Hashim ‘send it, send it’, which is an indication to Hashim for them to just go and get out of here – we don’t like what’s happening.

“At that point, you can clearly imagine the fear and worry that’s going through their minds – the fact they’ve gone through a red light and they’re still being followed.”

Det Insp Mark Parish led the murder investigation

The families of Saqib and Hashim have asked for the 999 call played in court not to be broadcast.

The final moments are extremely distressing. Towards the end, the line goes silent for 10 seconds before the operator asks if Saqib is still there.

“The call becomes emotional, quite upsetting and you can hear that they’re right behind them, and then screams and quiet,” Det Insp Parish said.

The aftermath

Just after 01:30, a recovery driver was travelling along the A46 when he saw a car on fire next to a tree. After realising no-one had called the police, he blocked off the road with his truck.

The first police officers arrived about 10 minutes later, closely followed by firefighters.

After the fire was put out, one of the police officers saw the bodies of two people in the car.

Further up the road, the Audi and Seat drivers pulled over. Mahek took over as driver of the Audi, and Natasha the Seat.

Then they headed back to Leicester to lay low. On their way back, they drove past the burning wreckage.

Once they arrived in the city, they pulled up in Sutton Place, a quiet cul-de-sac away from prying eyes. The group got out of the cars and began walking the streets.

They were spotted at various points at about 02:00, picked up on CCTV as they moved around the area in the cold February darkness.

Officers who later secured the footage could not be sure what they were doing, but one theory is that they were preparing a cover story.

They then either walked home or were dropped off. Natasha – who was the registered owner of the Seat – began her journey back to her home in Birmingham, while the Bukharis headed north to Stoke-on-Trent.

Deadly Influence

The story of a social media influencer, her mum and a murder plot.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (UK only)

Mahek, Ansreen and Rekan walking the streets of Leicester after the murders

Meanwhile, Leicestershire Police knew something the group did not.

Saqib’s 999 call had been passed on to detectives and they had begun scouring automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

They put out an alert, and two officers in the West Midlands spotted Natasha’s Seat.

They began to follow her, and later boxed her in at a petrol station. Before this happened, she called Raees in a panic.

She was then arrested and taken into custody.

Police in the home of Mahek and Ansreem the morning after the murders

Shortly after 08:00, Mahek and Ansreem were woken at home by the sound of police speaking to Mahek’s brother and father.

At this point Mahek noticed she had a raft of missed calls from Raees, who knew police had found Natasha.

While officers from Staffordshire Police continued to speak to the male members of the house, Mahek called Raees back.

She then sent a text to her mother in the next room, explaining what she would say to officers.

Dressed in a pink, fluffy oversized hoodie, Mahek lied to police, saying that on the night of the crash, they had been on their way to Nottingham for a social media event.

The pair were later arrested and taken to a police station in Leicester.

Mahek told officers “a pack of lies”, her trial heard

While being interviewed in custody, Mahek continued to lie about what she had been doing that night.

But when police played Saqib’s 999 call, she appeared taken aback.

Instead of conceding defeat, she broke down in tears and said Saqib “lies so much” and had “manipulated” events.

The Bukharis and six others are later charged with murder.

One of those, Mohammed Patel – who was later cleared of all charges – went on to tell police the full story, and revealed what happened during the chase.

Importantly, he told officers that Rekan and Raees had a phone conversation during the chase about ramming Saqib off the road.

Tears in the dock

On the afternoon of Friday 4 August 2023, after a long 18 months of waiting, both the Hussain and Ijazzudin families prepared to find out the fate of those accused of their loved ones’ murders.

The jury had deliberated for more than 28 hours.

Earlier that day, Mahek was seen by reporters outside Leicester Crown Court laughing and waving at them from a precinct balcony.

Mahek claimed in court she only wanted to Saqib to stop so they could talk

Her confident demeanour was soon gone. She burst into tears as the jury found both mother and daughter guilty of two counts of murder.

Rekan Karwan and Raees Jamal, the drivers of the two cars, were also found guilty of both murders.

Natasha Akhtar, Sanaf Gulammustafa and Ameer Jamal were each convicted of two counts of manslaughter.

Saqib Hussain and Hashim Ijazzudin

The victims

After the verdict, Saqib’s cousin Adil Bahar spoke to the BBC, explaining the pain the families had gone through to reach this point.

He said he “misses him every day”.

“As we sat in the seats in court and the judge said the jury has come to a verdict, at that point my heart just felt [like it was] breaking down.

“I’d do anything to have him back.”

Hashim’s brother Zaheer said his younger sibling was his “best friend”

Speaking at a football tournament organised in Hashim’s memory, both of his older brothers paid heartfelt tributes.

Muhammed Zaheer said: “In a short space of his life, he touched so many hearts up and down the country and all over the world.

“I could tell you stories about him from dawn until dusk… there’s too many.

“We would always have each other’s back… he was my best friend. Having a best friend as a brother is something very special.”

Mohammed Zain also paid tribute and said he was reminded of his brother almost everywhere.

“The only real TikTok influencer, world-life influencer was Hashim. You can see all the people [at the tournament], you can see all their messages about him,” he said.

“Everybody wants to be his brother. You know, even if you look online, everybody will say, that’s my brother.

“He was one in a million.”

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