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By The Journal
A loving husband in the grip of mental illness when he strangled his wife to death was spared jail yesterday as his family vowed to stand by him.
Abdul and Nusrat Alrahi had been happily married for more than 30 years and were devoted to each other and their four grown-up children, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
But in October last year, Alrahi, a local authority language department manager, began to suffer from depression which left him withdrawn, anxious and paranoid, the court was told.
Although he was prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, the extent of his illness was not fully appreciated, said Tim Parkin, prosecuting.
And in February this year, in a sudden violent loss of self-control, he strangled his wife to death with her head scarf at the family home in Redewater Avenue, Fenham, Newcastle.
The tragedy was discovered by the couple’s son, Sohail, who arrived to find his father on the staircase holding the baby grandson he and Mrs Alrahi had been looking after that day.
Mr Parkin said: “She was fully clothed, but her head scarf was tightly round her neck and she was covered with a shawl.”
Alrahi, 59, told police his wife, aged 50, had “given the impression I will be chucked out” adding: “After that I just don’t remember anything. It was simply too much. I just couldn’t handle it.”
Alhari – who moved to Britain from his native Pakistan in 1962- denied murder and his plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted by the prosecution at an earlier hearing.
Testimonies handed into the court described Alrahi, as a highly-respected man who did a great deal of voluntary work on behalf of the community and was loved by his family who were standing by him.
He was working for Rochdale Council at the time of the killing, returning to the family home at weekends. His voluntary work included involvement with a local school and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, as well as language tuition.
“Mental illness can be very cruel and can creep up on anyone unexpectedly,” said Patrick Cosgrove, QC, defending. “There is no doubt this man did suffer at the relevant time from clinical depression and it seems it was undiagnosed as to its gravity.
“It does appear this man’s mental illness disguised as being less serious than it was – not only to those who knew him but even to the professionals who saw him.”
Judge David Hodson sentenced Alrahi – who has already served the equivalent of a 20-month prison term while in custody on remand – to three years’ community rehabilitation with a condition of residence.
The court heard Alrahi will remain at a specialist unit, where he has been receiving treatment, until he is fully recovered and can return to his family, who are prepared to take him back.
The judge paid tribute to the couple’s four children for the way they had dealt with the tragedy.
He told Alrahi: “Over a period in excess of 30 years, you and your wife obviously loved each other deeply. You raised a family together and you and your late wife had every reason to be intensely proud of the family you have raised – not only because of their achievements, but because of their moral fibre and character that they have displayed at a time when they must have been so deeply afflicted by grief in losing their much-loved mother.
“You are a man of impeccable, excellent character, you did well for yourself in your chosen sphere of learning and occupation. You contributed to your community and earned a reputation which has been spoken of in the letters I have seen, not just from your family, but from many others.”