Moment witness Emma Smith became murder suspect over Chatham Hill horror blaze
Emma Smith is accused of
"goading" boyfriend Danai Muhammadi into starting a blaze in
by Dan Bloom
A witness in a murder investigation became a suspect mid-way
through her interview - when she gave police a false alibi, a court
Officers slipped a note between them with the word "arrest?" on
it as they spoke to Emma Smith - the girlfriend of 24-year-old
car salesman Danai Muhammadi, jurors at Maidstone Crown Court were
Both are now accused of murdering Muhammadi's wife Melissa
Crook, 20, their 15-month-old son Noah and father-in-law Mark, 50,
in a fierce fire in the family home in Chatham Hill, Chatham.
It is alleged Smith "goaded" Muhammadi
(pictured left) into lighting the fire after his marriage broke
down and he paid friend Farhad Mahmud, a bouncer at Maidstone club
Babylon, to help him.
DC Simon Marsden and DC Andy Jobes called Smith, 21, and invited
her to a police station near her Coventry home two days after the
blaze on Saturday, September 10.
Her boyfriend was already arrested and she said "I think I know
what this is about".
But, to their surprise, the unemployed mum-of-one said Muhammadi
had been with her in Coventry the whole night of the fatal fire -
when they already knew he had been at Mahmud's flat in Fernhill
DS Marsden said: "What Miss Smith was telling me and my
colleague seemed to fly in the face of that. My grounds to suspect
her involvement were considerably heightened.
"DC Jobes wrote on a scrap piece of paper, which he showed me
under the table, 'Arrest?' which I nodded 'Yes' to.
"He then said 'I am arresting you on suspicion of conspiracy to
Smith immediately said she was confused and had been talking
about the wrong weekend.
In interviews, she said over and over she went to Maidstone, but
had no idea the fire happened.
Yet a recording emerged of her dialling 999 from a pay-as-you-go
phone. She said there was a house on fire in "Chatnam".
Mark Crook (left), his
daughter Melissa and her toddler son Noah were killed in a house
Smith told officers: "I got a paper Monday and I read it on
the bus. As I was reading it I got a phone call from one of the
"I hadn't read the paper, I just saw the picture of Melissa. I
was going to make a report about who I thought might have done
She said Muhammadi asked her at 3pm on Friday, September 9 if
she would like to visit Kent, meet his friend Fred (Farhad Mahmud)
and smoke some cannabis.
Before they left, she said, they visited City College Coventry
where Muhammadi enrolled on a course to improve his English.
They arrived at Mahmud's flat where Muhammadi - known as Danny -
played a guitar to Love Like This, by Natasha Bedingfield.
They took mobile phone pictures of them kissing and the court
saw a video of Muhammadi singing and saying "Melissa lost".
Then he talked to Smith about visiting his toddler Noah, she
added - just an hour before allegedly killing him.
Smith said she had a bath and put on denim shorts and a pink
vest top. When she emerged, Muhammadi was chatting to Mahmud in
"They started laughing and I said 'what was that about'," she
said. "He said 'I was just saying me and you was together' so I
said 'why would you be laughing about it'.
"Danny put his shoes on, he said 'we’ll be back in a minute,
we've just got to pop to the shop'."
Floral tributes outside
the blaze-hit house in Chatham Hill
The fire broke out at 2.30am. Mahmud called Smith, she dialled
999 and called Muhammadi back.
She and Muhammadi drove back to Coventry late that night. She
claimed her boyfriend had forgotten he had work in the morning.
Smith told detectives: "When I got in the car it smelt of
petrol. I wouldn't say anything, I just opened the window.
"It weren’t like very strong but I could just smell it."
On the drive home, she said, Muhammadi sang along to Craig David
songs. She added: "I was like 'stop singing Danny, you don't know
DC Rocky Moan, interviewing her, said: "It would take a very
cold and callous individual to do it then to sing along to
Smith felt ill the next morning so went for a pregnancy test,
she said, which found was not pregnant.
She told police she met Muhammadi at a bus stop on August 3 and
began sleeping with him three days later.
started just talking to him for about an hour and that and we
exchanged numbers," she said. "Then I met up with him during the
daytime on August 4 and I've seen him almost every day since.
"At first [the sex] was protected then a week and a half after
But she added: "We were just seeing each other, we weren't in a
When asked if there was still a relationship, she said "There
ain’t one now."
The court heard Muhammadi broke things off with Smith while he was
in London with Melissa, a former pupil at Gillingham’s Upbury Manor
School, days before the fire.
Melissa's friends said she and Muhammadi signed their divorce
papers, but Smith claimed they slept with each other.
Smith told police: "I said 'You are not going to play us off
against each other'."
Smith claimed a string of nasty texts from her to Melissa were
in fact written by Muhammadi.
She also claimed she received nasty messages from Muhammadi’s
Facebook account - but they were written by Melissa.
Muhammadi, 24, of Britannia Street, Coventry, Smith, 21, of
Barley Lea, Coventry, and Mahmud, 35, of Fernhill Road, Maidstone,
all deny three murders and two attempted murders.
The trial continues.
"Besotted lover pushed car salesman into killing three
generations of his wife's family" - comprehensive murder trial
coverage, only in today's Medway Messenger.
- Click here for more news from across the county...