Ex-soldier given jail for 'chilling' murder

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 Assyrian community.

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 himself.

On the morning of September 2, he made breakfast for Ms Hurmiz before luring her into the shed of their Strathmore home.

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 kitchen knife.

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 foetal position."

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 the attack.

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.

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