Tanzanian man jailed for life after stabbing wife 49 times

31Oct 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Financial Times
Tanzanian man jailed for life after stabbing wife 49 times

A 'controlling bully' who strangled and then stabbed his wife 49 times in front of her young son 'like a lion kills its prey' has been jailed for life.   

Tanzanian Kema Salum (39) was ordered to spend at least 23 years behind bars after stabbing 35-year-old Leyla Mtumwa repeatedly in the neck and chest at her home in Haringey, north London, on March 30 this year. 

Salum, who had a history of violence against an ex-wife, had arrived in the UK on a six-month visa at the turn of the year having married Ms Mtumwa in east Africa.

On the night of the murder Ms Mtumwa had returned home just before 7am after a night out with friends when Salum fell into a 'violent rage' and attempted to strangle her, the Old Bailey heard.

Salum broke off and went into the kitchen to get a knife which he used to stab his wife 49 times in the head, neck, body and arms, the court was told. Mtumwa's screams were heard by her 12-year-old son who woke up and called 999.

When asked how many times his mother had been stabbed by the operator he replied, 'a lot.'

Prosecutor Catherine Farrelly said: 'He has seen this defendant on top of his mother when she was face down on the bed.

'He had his hands around her neck and was strangling her. He got up, walked out and returned to the room this time carrying a knife.

'This defendant had then pushed Leyla to the ground and the boy had seen the defendant on the floor, repeatedly stabbing her while she shouted, he's stabbing me.'

The police arrived at Kirkstall Avenue at around 7am and Salum answered the door with blood on his hands claiming his wife had injured him. As he was handcuffed Salum told officers: 'This is my wife and we fight.' 

When he was arrested, Salum denied murder and claimed he was acting in self-defence, but he changed his plea at the 11th hour at the Old Bailey. 

He pleaded guilty to murdering his wife before trial, saying: 'After hearing [my son's] story it makes sense with what happened so I pleaded guilty.'

Mtumwa's son was said to suffer terrifying nightmares and would break down uncontrollably when speaking to police.

The court heard the victim's parents had been left devastated by their daughter's death.

Mtumwa's mother, Hidaya Mohamed wrote to the judge: 'When Leyla's body was brought, when I saw how her face had been cut and she had been mutilated it broke my heart. 'It pains me in my heart that she was killed like an animal, killed like a lion kills its prey.'

She described how Mtumwa spoke often with her about Salum's abusive behaviour and his anger at her going out to work while he stayed at home babysitting and cleaning the house.

'When I was told she had been killed I fell down and hurt my back causing a slipped disk and I now walk with a stick,' she wrote.

'I have also lost my sight temporarily due to the shock. I have not stopped crying since Leyla was killed and I am now on medication to help me sleep.'

The court heard Salum had been 'extremely violent' towards his ex-wife in the past and had 'lied through his teeth' when he claimed to police he had been defending himself at all times.

Salum's ex-wife Amitin Mbamba gave evidence from Dubai about how Salum would beat her with an iron and an axe when they lived in Tanzania.

They were married in September 2012 and the violence began two weeks later when they moved from her parents into their own home. 'He's punching me using any object that was around - it could be an iron it could be a knife,' she said. 'He would hit me with the iron, he would threaten to switch it on and burn me with the iron. 'He would hit me with the back of the axe on my back.'

Judge Richard Marks QC jailed Salum for life with a minimum of 23 years and described the defendant as an 'arrogant, controlling bully'.

He said: 'This was a consistent attack of very considerable force which, although relatively short-lived, must have caused Leyla very substantial suffering before she died. 'Having started off attempting to strangle her you broke off, went to get a knife, and then resumed the attack.'