Essex Road off licence boss jailed for faking her own death

AN off licence boss who teamed up with her police officer husband to fake her own death in a �2m “Reggie Perrin” style scam was jailed for 25 months today.

Rozeena Butt, 39 - who owned Billa Wines, in Essex Road, Islington - plotted with trainee Met Police constable Mohammed, 45, and her niece Nosheen Chughtai, 32, to claim she had died of “dehydration” in a remote hospital in rural Pakistani.

Her lawyer told the court she was given the idea by a “clairvoyant” who was helping her through family troubles.

Butt was jailed for two years and one month at Southwark Crown Court after she admitted three counts of fraud.

Her husband received an 18-month sentence, and Chughtai a 51-week term suspended for two years with 125 hours, after they were both convicted of participating in the scam following a trial in January.

Passing sentence, Recorder Steven Gee QC, said: “The impression I have is of a woman who was under some pressure of debt and under significant family pressures concerning the extremely challenging behaviour of her eldest daughter.

“She was a depressed middle aged housewife for whom the pressures of life became too much and she engaged in an act of extreme folly.

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“In reality, there was no chance whatsoever of this fraud succeeding.”

Prosecutor Mark Fenhalls said mother-of-four Butt had maintained a secret second identity for many years when she committed the fraud in 2007.

The name “Shamshad Billa” appeared on her original birth certificate, but by the time she married Mohammed Butt in 1989, she was calling herself Rozeena Sadiq.

She continued to use her alter-ego to apply for official documents including a passport, and registered her off licence business under the alias even through she named it Billa Wines.

The Butts and Chughtai took out three life insurance policies for “Shamshad Billa” totalling �2.2m in January 2007 - �800,000 each from Legal and General and Norwich Union, and �600,000 from Royal Liver Assurance.

Rozeena Butt flew out to Pakistan, using her passport in the name of Billa, in July the same year.

Once there, she set about faking medical documents claiming “Shamshad Billa” had died of dehydration in a hospital in the Okara district of the Punjab.

A few weeks later Chughtai contacted the three companies involved to inform them of the “death” and asked them to pay out on the policies, but the firms investigated because of the young age of the woman who had supposedly died and the fact that the policies had only been recently issued.

They soon realised that Butt and Billa were the same person.

Police later found both Rozeena and Mohammed Butt’s fingerprints on the Pakistani hospital document certifying the death.

Following her arrest, Rozeena Butt confessed to the scam.

Rozeena Butt, of Nelmes Road, Hornchurch, Essex, admitted three counts of conspiracy to defraud between December 2006 and July 2008.

Mohammed Butt, of the same address, and Chughtai, of The Hub Buildings, Haberson Road, Tooting, denied the same charges but were convicted by majority verdicts.

Detective Inspector Dave Manley, from City of London Police, said: “This case is a peculiar mix of identity fraud and a faked death which may be more at home in the Reggie Perrin sitcom, but there was nothing funny about what these fraudsters were trying to achieve.

“They tried to take money which they weren’t entitled to, and which would ultimately have come from the premiums of honest people. Instead they got only a trip to the court-room and a guilty verdict.”