Murder accused says mother and daughter were alive when he left their home
A handyman accused of murdering a psychiatrist and her teenage daughter has told a jury both were alive when he left their home the night before their bodies were discovered.
Police found Dr Saman Mir Sacharvi, 49, and 14-year-old Vian Mangrio at their fire-damaged semi-detached house in Burnley, Lancashire, on the morning of October 1 last year.
The severely burned body of the schoolgirl was found in the lounge and her mother covered in soot in the upstairs bedroom with a fuel container next to her feet and a fuel cap on the bed.
The prosecution say Shahbaz Khan, 51, killed Dr Saman and Miss Mangrio, when she returned from school, on September 30 before he set a number of fires at the property.
Post-mortem examinations showed the doctor was strangled and the teenager died of asphyxia.
Giving evidence in his trial at Preston Crown Court on Thursday, the married father-of-four said he had to break up a fight between the pair while he was working at the house that day.
He said he was in the kitchen when Miss Mangrio returned from school at 3.25pm and heard arguing.
“I saw Dr Sacharvi pulling her hair and Vian kicking her mother,” he said. “I went in between them to split them out. I said ‘calm down’.”
He said he spoke to them separately and told Miss Mangrio: “She is your mother. Calm down, relax.”
He added: “I said to Dr Sarcharvi ‘she is your child, hitting is not the solution’.”
Khan said he did not know what the row was about but said the pair had argued as well the day before when he dropped off some tools and he saw writing on walls as he entered.
He said Dr Sacharvi told him her daughter was responsible for the writing which the court has heard included “Covid 19 house my mum is evil”, “Covid home” and “Help me”.
Days earlier Miss Mangrio had been self-isolating, along with her mother, as she awaited a coronavirus test result, which proved negative.
Khan told his barrister Mohammed Nawaz QC that no-one else was in the house on September 30.
Mr Nawaz asked: “Did you feel at any point the presence of others in the house that day, non-human?”
The defendant replied: “Yes, it is Robert. Robert is now I realise, because I am understanding, a hallucination.”
At the time he thought Robert was a jinn – a supernatural spirit – he said.
Khan also felt the presence of another jinn, Rita, and “my jinn as well, he is called Tony”.
He said he had discussed the jinns with Dr Sarcharvi, and also his mental health issues.
Khan said Dr Sacharvi had given him pills on a number of occasions at her home but he did not know what the medication was.
He said he left the address at “about 9.54pm” as he unlocked the front door.
Mr Nawaz asked: “Where was Dr Sacharvi at that time?”
Khan said: “At that time she was in the kitchen.”
Mr Nawaz said: “Where was Vian Mangrio?”
He said: “Vian at the time was upstairs.”
Mr Nawaz said: “Were they dead or alive?”
Khan replied: “Alive.”
He told Mr Nawaz he did not kill either of them and had not set any fires.
Mr Nawaz said: “Did you harm them in any way?”
Khan replied: “No.”
He said he had carried out various building work at the doctor’s home in Colne Road, and at her previous address in the town, and had become “like a family friend”.
The court has heard police found jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds belonging to Dr Sacharvi in a loft at Khan’s home, which they searched after he was arrested days later.
Khan told the jury he was looking after the jewellery at the doctor’s request for “security purposes” and had done so on previous occasions when she was away on holiday.
Khan, of Ribble Avenue, Burnley, denies two counts of murder and one count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
His wife, Rabia Shahbaz, 45, also of Ribble Avenue, denies doing an act intended to pervert the course of public justice.
The trial continues on Friday.