"I've got nothing to hide" arson death defendant tells jury

The Oxford Times: . .

ARSONISTS who killed a young brother and sister in a house fire 17 years ago have been branded “evil and sick” by a woman accused of murder.

Fiaz Munshi broke down on the witness stand as she told jurors she knew nothing about the fire that killed Anum, eight, and her brother Majid, 15, in 1997.

She swore on the lives on her own four children that she had no idea that an arson attack was planned for the house in Magdalen Road, Oxford.

The 38-year-old is accused of plotting a revenge attack when she was 21, amidst a bitter argument with former boyfriend Amjad Khan’s family, who lived at the house.

The mother-of-four began giving evidence at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

When her barrister Stephen Kamlish asked her what she thought of those responsible, she said: “I think they are evil and sick to do something like that.”

Munshi admitted she was part of the group that travelled to Oxford on the night of the blaze, but said she thought she was going for a fight.

She said: “I swear on my four children’s lives s Continued on Page 2 I did not know about a fire that was going to happen.

“If I had known I would not have got in that car.”

Five men - including her former boyfriend Haq Nawaz - were convicted of the murders in 1998. Her older sister Riaz was convicted of manslaughter a year later.

Jurors heard Munshi left the UK three months after the fire to be with her ill father in Pakistan.

But the former Donnington Middle School pupil said she was not afraid when she returned to the UK in 2004, adding: “Why should I not come back? I have not done anything wrong, I have got nothing to hide.

“I am not guilty of murder.”

Munshi said she was arrested at her Oldham home in October last year - five days after she reported a crime in her street.

And she told jurors her four children, the oldest of whom is 12, still thought she was abroad with her parents.

Prosecutors say Munshi plotted the fire when she was banished from Oxford for fighting with the Khan family.

It was said the Khans blamed her and her friends when their son Amjad was sent to prison for dealing heroin.

But Munshi yesterday said her older brothers had told her and her sister to leave their home, in Freelands Road, because Riaz refused to take part in an arranged marriage in Pakistan.

Munshi also told jurors she was in her pyjamas and ready to go to bed on the night of the fire.

She told the court that was when then-boyfriend Nawaz told her to come to Oxford to fight Shehnaz Akhtar - the older sister of her ex-boyfriend.

She said: “I agreed because I was scared of him.

“I would have pulled her hair and punched her but nothing more.

“He lied because he had another plan up his sleeve which I never knew anything about.”

And she said she lied to police after the fire because Nawaz told her to stick to his story or she would go to prison for a long time.

The trial continues.

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