A former Iraqi soldier who hatched a "chilling" plan to
mutilate his wife before taking his own life has been
sentenced to at least 17 years in prison for her murder.
Najeeb Dawood, 52, strapped Eman Hurmiz to a chair with
masking tape and stabbed her dozens of times with a kitchen
knife at their Wellington home in September 2011.
The killing was the culmination of two decades of domestic
violence and obsessive, controlling behaviour fuelled by
Dawood's pathological fear that his 41-year-old wife was
cheating on him.
In the High Court at Wellington today, Justice Forrest Miller
sentenced Dawood to life in prison with a minimum non-parole
period of 17 years.
He earlier pleaded guilty to murder, aggravated wounding,
assault on a 13-year-old girl, threatening to kill and
possession of a weapon.
Dawood and his family were Assyrian, a predominantly
Christian minority living mostly in Iraq and Syria.
His wife and four children came to New Zealand as refugees in
2008, after which they quickly became involved in the local
But when Dawood arrived two years later, he struggled to
adjust. He spoke little English, could not find steady
employment and was troubled by the greater freedom Ms Hurmiz
had in her new home country.
Justice Miller said Dawood became "pathologically suspicious"
of his wife and was obsessed with the idea she was cheating
on him - a suspicion which did not have any substance.
Dawood followed her, monitored the distance she travelled in
her car, called her phone when she was absent, and began
recording her phone calls on his computer.
As his obsessions intensified, Dawood hatched a plan to
mutilate his wife's face and genitalia before hanging
On the morning of September 2, he made breakfast for Ms
Hurmiz before luring her into the shed of their Strathmore
He showed her a letter he had written to his son, which
justified his actions and sought forgiveness, and played her
the recording of the phone calls.
Then he put on some Arabic music, strapped one of her arms to
a chair with masking tape and stabbed her with a large
When his daughter tried to intervene, he cut her below the
knee, forcing her to retreat.
Justice Miller said Ms Hurmiz died after she was stabbed
about 55 times, including five times in the chest cavity.
"All she could do to defend herself was to curl up into the
After the attack, Dawood dropped the knife and attempted to
take his own life.
He was rescued by emergency service workers and taken to
Wellington Hospital, where he underwent weeks of treatment
and psychological assessments.
Crown prosecutor Tom Gilbert said the murder had a
significant impact on Dawood's children, who had lost the
"foundation stone" of their family.
His son and daughter had also been traumatised by witnessing
Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said four psychiatric reports
gave an insight into Dawood's offending.
His client had developed "delusional jealousy" which worsened
in the months prior to the murder, as evidenced by his
depression and suicide attempt.
"He formed a plan, as chilling as it is, to mutilate his wife
and take his life."
Mr Antunovic said his client had endured hardship in Iraq,
including witnessing "horrific" atrocities while serving in
the army for 11 years, including during the Iran-Iraq war.
But he acknowledged post-traumatic stress disorder was not a
factor in the murder.
Justice Miller took account of Dawood's lack of cultural
adjustment to New Zealand, but noted that his concern over
his wife's virtue well exceeded any norms in Iraqi culture.
The carefully planned crime was characterised by "a very high
level of brutality and callousness".
He added the decision to play back the phone recordings and
music added "an element of ritual to the killing".
Justice Miller sentenced Dawood to life in prison for murder,
with concurrent sentences for the other offences, most of
which dated back to a previous domestic incident.