TWO brothers have been found guilty of murdering Coventry woman Semeena Imam on Christmas Eve.
Roger Cooper, 41, and David Cooper, 39, were convicted at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday) after a ten-week trial.
Both were sentenced today to 30 years in prison.
The jury heard how the brothers spent weeks planning the killing of the 34-year-old Costco manager.
It is believed Semeena was taken to David’s house, in Leicester, by Roger before she was then smothered with chloroform which had been brought off the internet. Her body was then put in a pre-dug grave in the early hours of Christmas morning.
The court heard how Roger, a store manager, and Sameena, a regional marketing manager who covered the Coventry branch, had been in a secret two year relationship.
Evidence suggested Roger had told Sameena, by the December, he had left his long term partner to start a new life with her.
Prosecuting Timothy Spencer QC said in reality this was not the case and claimed Roger had no intention of leaving his partner for her.
He added Sameena had become a problem to Roger and his solution for dealing with this was to enlist the help of his brother to kill her.
The jury heard evidence from other Costco employees that relationships between managers, working in the same Costco store, were strictly against company policy, and should be declared.
Roger believed Sameena was going to reveal their relationship, not only destroying his relationship with his long-term partner but also jeopardising his career. He feared he would be demoted or even sacked if the secret came out.
Roger and David, who were both avid Star Wars fans, planned Sameena’s death and the burial of her body through coded text messages using dialogue only the brothers understood coining phrases from the films such as ‘Stay on target. Stay on target. You are expected, Vader’. David also admitted to spying on Sameena in early December. Roger claimed he was worried she was seeing other men so had asked his brother to watch her.
On December 9 Roger hired a car for his brother to use to carry out their plan to kill Sameena. The prosecution said the brothers first planned to abduct Sameena outside the Premier Inn in Solihull as she arrived by taxi in the early hours of December 12 from a Christmas party.
A hotel receptionist, who knew Sameena as she regularly stayed at the hotel when in the Midlands, gave evidence and said Semeena had claimed Roger had told her to meet him at the hotel with the promise of a ‘surprise’.
But, when she arrived the receptionist told her no room had been booked for her and Roger.
David was instead waiting for her to arrive in the car park in a hire vehicle.
For reasons which remain unclear, the brothers plan was foiled and Sameena made it safely into the hotel reception.
David then texted Roger in broken French ‘C’est nil point, l’ouef/l’ouef. La fenetre n’est pas ouvre’ interpreted by the prosecution to mean ‘there’s no point, no score. The window (of opportunity) is closed’.
The court heard how, in the November, Sameena had booked a two night stay on December 24 and 25 at the Malmaison Hotel, in Birmingham, for her and Roger in the belief it would be their first Christmas together, spending £500.
The court were shown receipts for the booking and text messages between Roger and Sameena planning their stay and confirming their Christmas Day menu.
Mr Spencer said Roger had no intention of going to Malmaison as he had planned to spend Christmas with his partner.
CCTV caught Roger leaving Costco on Christmas Eve, about 4pm, ahead of Sameena before and the pair drove away in separate cars.
The couple then met up nearby, leaving Sameena’s BMW on a side road close to Costco. Sameena transferred her luggage for Malmaison into Roger’s Audi A6 before the pair headed to David’s home for a ‘quick Christmas visit’.
During the drive to Leicester, Sameena spoke to her sister for the last time to check on how her mother, who had recently had an operation, was feeling. She told her sister she would be at her parent’s home on Boxing Day.
According to evidence Roger and Sameena arrived in Leicester about 5pm. It is believed she was killed almost as soon as she arrived.
At 6.25pm, Roger began his journey back to Coventry leaving David to dispose of the body.
Pathologist Dr Frances Hollingbury found Sameena had died as a result of chloroform toxicity and that her body had been buried within hours of her death.
David eBay account also showed on December 8 he ordered a 200ml of Cholorform, which he claimed never arrived.
It is believed once back in Coventry Roger used Sameena’s mobile to send himself a text message to create the impression she was still alive and well, after he had arrived home to his partner and had an alibi.
A post mortem revealed Sameena had higher levels of metals including arsenic, mercury and antimony in her blood, some of these metallic elements were also purchased by David on eBay in the December.
The court heard on Boxing Day David drove to Coventry to pick up Sameena’s BMW before he drove it back to his address. The next day he then drove it to Luton and abandoned it on a side street. He then took a taxi to Luton Parkway train station and travelled back to Leicester.
On December 29, David then collected a hire car from Coventry and travelled to Luton once more so he could move the car again and wipe away any trace of fingerprints and DNA using a cleaning agent.
Roger was interviewed by police as a significant witness January 1 and 2 and David was questioned as a witness on January 4.
The pair were charged with murder on January 9 despite Sameena’s body still not having been found.
The day after David was charged, he requested a further interview with detectives where he made partial admissions to killing Sameena on the sofa in his address. He later claimed they were false admissions.
A friend of David’s also contacted police on January 11 to report David had given her a set of keys before he was arrested – the keys belonged to David’s allotment plot on Groby Road in Leicester.
Later that day, officers visited the allotment and excavations by forensic archaeologists began the following day. Sameena’s body was found in a deep grave five days later.
Det Sup Mark Payne, head of Homicide for West Midlands Police, said while they had seen justice done through the courts it would never change the fact Sameena has lost her life in heart-breaking circumstances.
“My sympathy rests with the family and friends she left behind.
“Sameena was a woman with her whole life ahead of her, she has been described by her friends as an immaculate lady, bubbly and beautiful, with a flourishing career.
“All this has been cruelly destroyed by the selfish and callous actions of Roger and David Cooper.”
He added the enquiry team had worked closely with Sameena’s family and several police forces, particularly Leicestershire, to bring the brothers to justice.
Det Sup Payne said planned murders, in the detail seen in this case, were very uncommon and require extraordinary levels of investigation.
He added the police, Crown Prosecution Service and prosecution counsel had all worked tirelessly on what had been one of the most complex cases the force has seen in years.
Sameena’s father Imam Din said: “Sameena was very special to me and my wife. I could talk for days about Sameena and what she meant to us and her sisters, brother, nieces, nephews, family and friends and it breaks our heart that we cannot have her back home where she should be.
“As a family we are absolutely devastated at the loss of Sameena.”
He added nothing could ever have prepared them for hearing their daughter had been murdered.
He said they had been praying and hoping Sameena was still alive and holding on to any little tiny bit of hope they could and that the police were wrong.
Mr Din said: “You almost have a feeling that she has died and begin to grieve but then you go back to holding onto any little shred of hope that she may come back to us alive.
“It is hard for us to even imagine that an innocent, kind, beautiful girl could be murdered, let alone our daughter. We are still in shock and we are all missing Sameena in so many different ways.
“Everything in our life and future has been affected even to the point of worrying about our other children and grandchildren going out and thinking they won’t be safe.”
Imran Imam, Sameena’s younger brother, added: “The circumstances in which Sameena was murdered plagues me greatly. I constantly think of her last moments and her final thoughts and fears.
“Sameena was a mentor, a guide, a counsel during difficult times. I will no longer be able to seek her advice.
“I am forever reminded of her loss with constant triggers to memories from her life; worst still with triggers such as road signs for locations which I understand are linked to her death.”