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Full inquest begins into death of woman shot outside police station in 2003

Sabina Rizvi was shot dead outside Bexleyheath police station in March 2003 (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Sabina Rizvi was shot dead outside Bexleyheath police station in March 2003 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The inquest into the death of a woman who was shot outside a police station nearly 21 years ago has begun looking at whether police were “in any way implicated”.

Sabina Rizvi, 25, was killed in the early hours of March 20 2003 as she drove away from Bexleyheath police station in south-east London.

In 2004, Paul Asbury, then aged 22, was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of her murder and the attempted murder of Mark Williams, who was a passenger in the car.

Opening the full inquest at the Old Bailey on Monday, Cathryn McGahey KC said Sabina’s family believed there was “more that should be investigated”.

Ms McGahey, who is counsel to the inquest, said: “The criminal trial had looked only at the role of Paul Asbury and of accomplices who had been directly involved in the shooting or in destroying evidence afterwards.

“The criminal trial had not looked at whether the police at Bexleyheath police station were in any way implicated in what had happened.”

She told the jury at the Old Bailey that they would be asked to look at “whether any action or inaction on the part of the police caused or contributed to Sabina’s death”.

The inquest heard that Sabina was in an abusive relationship with Williams and that he was “violent towards her”.

Williams had been convicted of supplying Class A drugs and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, being released in January 2002.

Ms McGahey said Sabina “had got into trouble when she was younger” and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 1999 for supplying drugs.

She added that Sabina’s family were “hopeful that she would turn things around” and, in 2003, her mother lent her £15,000 to buy into a mobile phone shop business.

However, in March 2003, Sabina told her mother she wanted to use the money to buy an Audi TT instead.

Ms McGahey told the jury they would hear evidence that Sabina’s brother advised her to go to the police and check that the car she bought was not stolen.

Sabina went with Williams to Peckham police station on March 13 2003 and was told that the vehicle was not listed as stolen.

Later on the same day, Asbury phoned Bexleyheath police station and said his Audi had been carjacked.

Detective Superintendent Francis De Juan, from the Metropolitan Police’s inquiry and review support command, told the inquest that police had intelligence that Asbury, who had 10 previous convictions, was involved in burglaries, supplying drugs and was violent.

On March 16 2003, Asbury phoned former detective sergeant Robert Florio, who was in charge of the carjacking investigation, and said he knew that the girlfriend of someone called “Bucky”, a nickname for Williams, had his car.

Mr Florio asked Sabina to come to Bexleyheath police station on March 19 with all the documents for the Audi.

Sabina told police she had paid Asbury for the Audi and agreed to a search of the vehicle – she called Williams and he drove the car to the police station, arriving at about 10.25pm.

Police arrested Williams after he arrived as he matched the description Asbury had given of one of the car thieves.

Williams was wearing a bullet-proof vest when arrested and told police this was because he “moved in certain circles” in South London.

Officers took it away from him and realised, from its markings, that it was a Metropolitan Police vest.

When interviewed by police in the early hours of March 20, Williams denied having anything to do with the carjacking and said he was wearing the vest because he was a friend of someone who was wanted for murder and was “afraid of reprisals from associates of the murder victim”.

After the interview, Mr Florio and former detective constable Mark Horner had an off-the-record conversation with Williams.

In a handwritten note made by the officers of the conversation, which was not taped, Williams said he was going to “take over the drugs market” in the area, had not robbed Asbury and had spoken to him on the phone – demanding £10,000 for the return of the car “for trying to knock my girl”.

Williams said Asbury had told him to forget the car and that he “would never live to collect the money”.

Ms McGahey said there was evidence that Williams managed to make contact “directly or indirectly” with Asbury while in custody.

Williams was released on bail at about 2.15am and Sabina drove the pair in a Nissan Bluebird along Watling Street in Bexleyheath.

Minutes after they had left the police station, shots were fired into their car and Sabina was killed by a bullet that went through her neck.

Williams was shot twice in the head – surviving but with significant brain injuries affecting his memory.

He is still alive but too unwell to give evidence to the inquest.

Shortly after the shooting, Asbury was arrested for murder and attempted murder after he arrived at Bexleyheath police station and asked to speak to Mr Florio.

A police investigation established that from around the time of Williams’s arrival at the police station, phone numbers linked with Asbury were in frequent contact with Asbury’s associates.

It also found that from about 10.20pm on March 19 – five minutes before Williams brought the Audi into the police yard – one of those phones was close to Bexleyheath police station.

By 1.45am on March 20, a phone linked with Asbury was also in the area of the police station – remaining in the area until 2.20am, around the time that Sabina and Williams were shot.

The inquest heard that the Nissan Bluebird driven by Sabina was followed by a red Vauxhall Astra and a Ford Mondeo as it left the police station.

Ms McGahey said police were able to trace the Vauxhall Astra, which was later found burnt out, and CCTV “showed someone who looked like Paul Asbury driving the Astra on the night of 19-20 March”.

The Ford Mondeo was also later found burnt out and Ms McGahey said “we believe that whoever shot Sabina and Mark Williams was in that car.”

Sabina’s mother, Iffat Rizvi, told the inquest that she had been diagnosed with severe PTSD and depression following her daughter’s death.

She told the inquest: “There is not a day when I do not wake up with thoughts of Sabina not being in my world.

“Every day I have to bring myself into the real world knowing Sabina is not coming back.”

She added that Sabina was “the heart and soul of the family”, from Merton in London.

The inquest, which was originally opened and adjourned in 2003, was reopened in February 2019 by the senior coroner for South London.

It was delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic and is now being heard by assistant coroner Angela Rafferty KC.

The evidence is expected to be heard for two weeks, with the jury’s conclusion expected during the week beginning March 25.