A FUGITIVE will spend the next 26 years behind bars for the murder of a young dad who was stabbed through the heart outside his home in Sheffield.
Hassan Maruf, who fled to France after killing 30-year-old takeaway worker Zabihullah ‘Zabi’ Rafiq in Callow Mount, Gleadless, was traced and extradited back to South Yorkshire.
Yesterday jurors unanimously found him guilty of murder following a trial at Sheffield Crown Court.
Maruf and accomplice Shaffiq Habibi - who is on the run, believed to be in his home country of Afghanistan - had plotted to rob Zabi of over £700 in takings as he returned home from a night shift at Pizza Pronto on Glossop Road, Broomhill.
But their carefully-planned masked robbery went wrong when the father of a little daughter resisted - and was stabbed through the heart and left to die in a pool of blood.
High Court judge Mr Justice Foskett, sentencing Maruf to a minimum of 26 years in jail, told him: “You will have a life when you are eventually released and you will have a child.
“Zabihullah Rafiq will not. His wife will not have her much-loved husband, their child a father.
“This was a needless and tragic death and it was born of the greed of you and Habibi.
“You should remember that each day for the rest of your life.”
Afghan national Maruf, who had claimed asylum in the UK, claims to be 20 years old but his official age is not known.
The court heard he lay in wait with Habibi outside Zabi’s home at around 4am last May 29 and pounced as he walked to the front door from his car.
The prosecution alleged it was Maruf who had the knife - but he said Habibi used it to ‘scare’ their victim before inflicting a single 5cm stab wound. Maruf was sentenced on the basis it was not him who wielded the knife.
Nearby resident Terence Smith said he heard a high-pitched scream just before 4am - and the court heard Habibi and Maruf, of Hampton Road, Fir Vale, fled as Zabi lay dying on the ground.
Jurors heard Habibi – who worked with Zabi at Pizza Pronto - knew his friend would be carrying hundreds of pounds in takings.
Days earlier, he and Maruf had undertaken two ‘reconnaissance journeys’ and exchanged texts as they planned the route for the robbery.
Afterwards their balaclavas were found dumped in bushes at Crabtree Ponds in Fir Vale, along with Maruf’s bloodstained coat, gloves, shirt and shoes.
Habibi is believed to have fled to Afghanistan after realising Zabi had died and he was implicated. Maruf fled too, for France, but was caught and extradited back to the UK.
The court heard Maruf - who had admitted manslaughter but denied murder - was of previous good character with no convictions. Richard Marks, defending, said Habibi was the ‘prime mover and instigator’ and there was ‘no intention to kill’.
Det Sgt Anne-Marie Evans told The Star afterwards: “We are pleased at the verdict and hope it will give some comfort to the family knowing justice has been served.
“All Zabi had on him was £750 but he lost his life. Maruf by taking part has ruined his life. It was a nasty, unprovoked attack.”
Police said they were doing ‘everything they could’ to trace Habibi.