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Terrified victim went to police twice about stalker. 13 days later she was murdered

Craig Kapitan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Aug 2023, 11:37AM

Terrified victim went to police twice about stalker. 13 days later she was murdered

Craig Kapitan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Aug 2023, 11:37AM

On December 6 last year Farzana Yaqubi walked into the Henderson Police Station to make a formal statement about the stalking and harassment she was enduring from Kanwarpal Singh.

Thirteen days later Singh stabbed her to death as she walked home from work.

Details of the two police complaints Yaqubi made before her death along with the months of harassment she suffered from Singh can now be reported.

Sweeping suppression of the facts of the case were finally lifted at Singh’s sentencing for murder at the Auckland High Court this morning.

Justice David Johnstone today sentenced Singh to 17 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in April to murdering Yaqubi, a promising 21-year-old AUT law student from a prominent former refugee family.

Singh was working as a security guard on Queen St and Yaqubi was at AUT when they met, court documents say.

She was passing by his workplace and he struck up a conversation with her and invited her for a coffee.

He began to continuously message her on Instagram, court documents show.

Yaqubi blocked him, but the messages continued over the next two years, as he created various new social media accounts to contact her.

He started sending her threats.

Singh threatened to kidnap her, saying “if u don’t wanna say anything I will kidnap u n give u 365 days to fall in love with me”.

Farzana Yaqubi was killed in Massey last year.

Farzana Yaqubi was killed in Massey last year.

He threatened to throw acid in her face in another message.

Singh added her family and friends as he continually tried to contact her via social media.

Yaqubi made an online report to police on October 25 last year complaining about Singh’s harassing behaviour.

It didn’t stop.

On December 5, she noticed him following her at a shopping mall and contacted a security guard for help.

The following day he sent her a video taken outside her home.

That video left her fearing for her safety. She went to the Henderson Police Station to make another complaint.

Yaqubi made a statement about Singh’s stalking behaviour and gave officers screenshots of Singh’s messages.

The next day Singh had a pizza delivered to her home in Massey.

Two weeks later, on December 18, Yaqubi finished work at the Westgate Mall and caught the bus to Royal Heights.

She got off the bus and walked to an alleyway near the Waitakere Badminton Centre on her way to the home she shared with her family in Cedar Heights Ave.

Police y after Yaqubi was stabbed to death. Photo / Lincoln Tan

Police after Yaqubi was stabbed to death. Photo / Lincoln Tan

Singh was waiting in the car park of the centre in his Toyota.

When he saw her walking in the alleyway he approached her wielding a large knife.

When Yaqubi saw Singh she tried to call police.

He stabbed her several times in the stomach and chest.

As she fell to the ground screaming Singh continued stabbing as he stood over her.

When members of the public approached, he retreated down the alley, jumped a fence and fled in his car.

Yaqubi died at the scene. She had suffered 12 stab wounds along with defensive injuries. Her thumb was partly severed.

The court summary of facts says four of the stab wounds would each on their own have been fatal.

Singh was arrested at home the next day. He had not previously appeared before the court.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) is now investigating whether there could have been improvements in the police response.

Acting Detective Inspector Tim Williams earlier told the Herald on Sunday that in the early stages of the investigation, staff became aware of recent contact Yaqubi had with police.

In late October 2022, Yaqubi filed an online report with police about “harassing behaviour”, Williams said.

“Farzana was advised to attend a police station to provide further information so the matter could be considered for further action, which was carried out in early December 2022.

“Police were progressing this matter further when Farzana was senselessly murdered.”

Police referred the matter to the IPCA to explore “whether there could have been improvements in the police response”, Williams said.

“Police will await the findings of this independent review so that any findings can be considered further.

“While nothing can bring her back, the guilty plea, in this case, will spare the family this matter going to a jury trial,” Williams said.

“Police continue to support Farzana’s family as they move forward with their lives.”

Stalking legislation

The Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children coordinator Leonie Morris told the Herald the coalition believed Yaqubi’s death could have been prevented if New Zealand had criminalised stalking.

“Currently various types of stalking and harassment are referred to in different pieces of legislation (primarily the Harassment Act and the Harmful Digital Communications Act) but this leaves many victim/survivors unprotected.

“Stalking is unwanted repetitive and persistent intrusions into a person’s life. It is usually designed to control the victim, and it can be terrifying. It is a known risk factor/precursor for severe and sometimes fatal violence.”

Morris said New Zealand’s “outdated and piecemeal legislation” meant that stalking was not illegal in New Zealand. It is illegal in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA, she said.

“The Government needs to make stalking illegal by adding it to the Crimes Act. This would keep everybody safer, particularly women.”

She said currently police “lack the tools” they need to protect victims from stalking.

Morris said adding stalking to the Crimes Act would ensure police were trained about stalking and its harms, raise public awareness, and allow data about stalking to be collected.

Yaqubi was remembered as a quiet, loving and diligent young woman.

She had been about to embark on a religious pilgrimage to Iraq.

Yaqubi’s father was a refugee from the Afghan Hazara ethnic minority, who fled Taliban persecution in 2001 and ended up as one of the Tampa refugees.

A family member told the Herald Yaqubi was born in New Zealand shortly after her father’s arrival in the country.

She grew up in Auckland and studied law at AUT, receiving a scholarship.

The close family member, who did not want to be identified, said Yaqubi received high marks and was a top student.

She already had a job offer, he said.

Yaqubi was an observant Shia and planned to shortly head to Karbala in Iraq for her pilgrimage.

The family member remembered Yaqubi as quiet, diligent and loved by children.

“My kids, they keep telling me they miss her and asking for her to come back,” he said.

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