Killed after starting a new life

South Yorkshire Police handout pic of Zabihullah Rafiq who was stabbed outside Bankwood flats in Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield on Sunday May 29, 2011. ''send in
South Yorkshire Police handout pic of Zabihullah Rafiq who was stabbed outside Bankwood flats in Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield on Sunday May 29, 2011. ''send in
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HE CAME to Sheffield from war-torn Afghanistan with dreams of a safe future.

Instead 30-year-old Zabi Rafiq’s life was cut short in a violent ambush - and his body lies buried back in Kabul, where his elderly mother still lives.

Zabi left Afghanistan 10 years ago and settled in Sheffield to start a new life, becoming a British national in 2009.

He worked at the Pizza Pronto takeaway on Glossop Road in Broomhill, and was so trusted he regularly took home the takings after working the night shift.

It was that routine which led to his death. Colleague Shaffiq Habibi knew he would be carrying money, and planned a robbery to strip him of over £700.

When Zabi - a devoted husband to wife Zyrafete, 23, and father to two-year-old daughter Maryam - resisted his masked assailants, he was stabbed. He was left bleeding to death just strides from his door outside the Bankwood tower block on Callow Mount, Gleadless Valley.

In the days after the murder heartbroken Zyrafete - who too had sought refuge in Sheffield after fleeing Kosovo - broke down in tears as she cradled her toddler on her knee and appealed for the public’s help.

Detectives visited every flat in the six tower blocks on the road where Zabi lived to piece together information about his life.

But it was his job which eventually led them to Habibi, when they began compiling a list of people who would have known Zabi took cash home at the end of his shift.

Police drafted a list of around 20 names, and called at Habibi’s home early in the investigation.

When they discovered his car had been captured on CCTV in Sheffield around the time of the murder, and paid his home a second visit, he had vanished.

Checks revealed he had sold his car and boarded a plane to Dubai from Manchester.

Further checks on his phone led police to Maruf, via text messages the pair had sent in the run-up to the killing.

When officers examined the back of a mobile phone found close to Zabi’s body, Maruf’s DNA was discovered. And Zabi’s blood, and Maruf’s and Habibi’s DNA, were later found on balaclavas discarded in a plastic bag in Fir Vale.

Maruf had claimed asylum in the UK in 2010, and was allowed to stay only on condition he didn’t work - a rule he flouted by taking a job at the Elif kebab shop on Ecclesall Road.

He too fled the country after the murder - illegally, in the back of a lorry.

During his trial, Richard Sheldon, prosecuting, told Sheffield Crown Court: “Those who flee do so only because they fear the consequences of what they have done.”

The 20-year-old, who lived in Sheffield on Hampton Road in Fir Vale, was eventually tracked down via phone calls to Marseilles in the south of France.

He was attempting to travel back to Afghanistan, and had filed paperwork using a fake ID, when he was extradited to the UK to face trial.

But Habibi, 30, of Spring Walk, Eastwood, Rotherham, is believed to be in hiding back in Afghanistan and may never be found.

Detective Superintendent Andy Thompson said the hefty prison sentence imposed at Sheffield Crown Court reflected the ‘callousness’ of the murder, and said Zabi was left ‘bleeding to death on the pavement’.

And he promised South Yorkshire Police are committed to bringing Habibi to justice.

“Efforts are still being made to secure his arrest and return him to the UK,” he said.