Law & Order UK celebrated its 50th episode with “Customs”, a story based on the original Law & Order episode “Ritual” (season 8, episode 10). “Ritual” was not one of my favorite episodes, I suspect due to the subject matter, which make me squirm just hearing about it. In “Customs,” Safia Mahmoud kills her mother in law over her very real fear that she was arranging a procedure on Safia’s daughter Laila which would mutilate her genitals. There may be some weird customs in the world, but this one certainly is one of the most horrific, casing both physical and emotional trauma for any young girl forced into the procedure. In this particular case, the girl’s father is clueless about the real nature of the procedure and its after effects, likely only wanting it done for his daughter because his mother said so, and out of tradition.
Things seemed to have been going very well at CPS for Kate and Jake – until this case. Kate goes back to her defense mindset; she has difficulty keeping from the defense what she thinks are mitigating circumstances for the defendant's act of murder. Kate goes behind Jake's back to convince the defendant to open up to her own attorney about her fears of female genital mutilation being arranged for her daughter. Jake is clearly unhappy about this. But, at the end, even Jake had to admit that Kate did the right thing by digging further into this case.
This episode had a great first half but a somewhat dull second half, despite the friction between Jake and Kate. I was hoping, as it was Law & Order UK’s 50th episode, there would be something thrilling to close the episode. But, based on some advance information on episode 7, I think we’ll be getting plenty of excitement to make up for it coming up on April 23, 2014. Stay tuned!
Here is the recap:
Bradley Walsh - DS Ronnie Brooks
Ben Bailey Smith – DS Joe Hawkins
Paterson Joseph - DI Wes Leyton
Dominic Rowan - Jacob Thorne
Georgia Taylor - Kate Barker
Peter Davison - Henry Sharpe
Gillian Saker – Kayleigh
Solomon Israel – Carl
Nicola Sanderson – SOCO Joy
Jessica Gunning – Angela
Gareth Snook – Giles Moss
Hara Yannas = Safia Mahmoud
Dhafer L’Abidine - Tariq Mahmoud
Ofrrie Haddi – Laila Mahmoud
Annael Mullion – Pathologist Eleanor
Glyn Pritchard – Graham
Akin Gazi – Dr. Yafeu Elsayed
Fraser James – Dr. Toby Marsh
Delroy Brown – Dr. Turnbull
Haydn Gwynne - Madeline Morgan
Gregory Floy – Judge Maisden
Shamaya Blake - Yasmin
A woman screams as she goes into labor. As her husband races her to the car to go to hospital, he sees a body laying on the ground – a person appears to have jumped. He calls for the police but then races to the hospital.
Later, DS Ronnie Brooks arrives on the scene and SOCO Joy is already there. The dead person is a white female and the only thing on her is her phone. DS Joe Hawkins also found nothing, and when he looks at the body, Ronnie notices the woman was not wearing a coat, despite the cold.
At MIU, Ronnie speaks with DI Wes Leyton and explains the data on the phone was mostly in Arabic and Wes tells him to get a translator. Joe tells Ronnie the phone was registered to a Ranya Habib, and he has an address. Ronnie asks Joe how is his Arabic, and Joe says something in Arabic. Ronnie is impressed, that is, until Joe tells him it means “My hovercraft is full of eels” and that he is a big Python fan. Ronnie asks where they are going, and when Joe says Highgate, Ronnie tells him “no dead parrot jokes.”
At the home of Ranya Habib in Highgate on Thursday, March 20, police are taking out evidence and Joe shows Ronnie that he found a note in Arabic with a couple numbers – 779 LHR 355. Ronnie wonders if it is a flight number. Ronnie says he will see what they neighbors have to say.
Ronnie speaks with a neighbor Mr. Moss who says Ranya was not very tolerant and he heard her last night having an argument with somebody at about 11. The talking was in Arabic and it was like listening to burning cats. Her husband died years ago. Joe approaches and after Ronnie gives Moss his card, he walks off with Joe, commenting he was well rescued.
Back in the flat, Ronnie looks at the document Joe gave him and comments 900 grand and Joe says Habib Imports can be anything. Ronnie looks at a diary planner and sees dinner last night with Tariq, who Wes says is her son, and that today was all blanked out with the letters “YE.” Ronnie looks at the rest of the diary and notes that Ranya is very busy for someone planning to “clear her diary.”
As Ronnie walks down the stairway he smells bleach. He speaks with Moss again and asks who cleans the stairwell and he says they have someone who comes Tuesdays. Ronnie then turns to Joe and asks if this smells three days old to him and Joe doesn’t answer and Ronnie says it does not. Ronnie tells Joe to get the boys over her and get the place forensicated, wondering if the argument turned nasty.
At the Mahmoud home in Muswell Hill on the same day, Ronnie give his condolences to Ranya's son and wife. Their daughter enters and her mother tells her they must leave the men to talk. As they leave, they asks Mahmoud the last time he saw his mother. He explains she came for dinner last night and left just after 10. She seemed normal and cannot believe she would take her own life. They asked about the YE in her diary and her tersely asks how should he know. Ronnie reminds him they are only trying to do their job,
At the mortuary, the pathologist, Eleanor, says Ranya did not die of a suicide. The skull fracture, her injuries, and the fact there wasn’t enough blood on the road aren’t consistent with a fall form that height. It is more like a fall down a stairwell. Given her body temp at the time they found her, she had been dead at least a couple hours. Ronnie suspects she was pushed down the stairs and dumped at the other location. Joe’s phone rings and then he informs Ronnie the numbers on the paper were from a flight number 779 at 3:55 from Arab Air to Heathrow and Ronnie suspects YE was the person flying in.
At the airport, Ronnie and Joe find that there were two people with the initial YEs on the note that was due to fly in then. One was a 12 year old travelling with a family and the other was Yafeu Elsayed in from Cairo for 3 days. They see him on the video coming into customs and he is meeting Ranya. They get his immigration card and flight history which is very extensive. Ronnie sees he is staying at the Sovereign Hotel in London. Ronnie gets a call from Angie and then tells Joe the Sovereign can wait as they race off.
Back at MIU, Ronnie and Joe, with Angela nearby, discuss whether Elsayed is Al Qaeda and Joe tells Wes Ronnie’s terrorist radar is bleeping. Ronnie mentions there are multiple payments from Ranya’s account to various recipients including £6,000 to Elsayed, yesterday she picked him up from Heathrow and then they found her dead. He adds in the last 12 months, Elsayed has been to the Yemen, Libya, and Syria, and they can’t rule terrorism out. Wes tells him to tread carefully.
At the Sovereign Hotel, while Joe searches the room where Elsayed was staying, Ronnie speaks with a worker who knows nothing. Joe finds a receipt for sodium bicarbonate and nitroglycerin and Ronnie comments that is homemade explosives and he could have made that in the hotel room. Ronnie recalls Elsayed had another bag with him and wonders where is the other bag? The worker hasn’t seen it but when Ronnie asks if he knows where Elsayed was going, he points to the Tower Bridge, visible out the window. Ronnie puts in a call to Wes but has to leave a message for Wes to call him, it is urgent. Joe cautions Ronnie that they don’t know for sure, but Ronnie tells Joe to think about it: the risk of not taking action Is far greater. He gives Joe instructions on calling in other authorities.
At the Tower Bridge, Ronnie and Joe work with security to spot Elsayed and then Ronnie tells them to do an emergency evacuation to the south exit.
Meanwhile, Elsayed waits in the walkway with a large briefcase and hears the announcement about an emergency evacuation to the south exit. Elsayed opens the bag and takes out that looks like a cell phone, but he does not move to leave. Ronnie and Joe wait at the south exit with other police as people exit. A helicopter flies overhead. Finally, Elsayed exits and Ronnie waits for the right time then tells the officer to call out to Elsayed now. The officer hold out his gun and tells Elsayed to stop and drop the bag now, and lay on the ground with his arms outspread, which he does. Another officer kicks away Elsayed’s cell phone. As Elsayed is on the ground being handcuffed, Joe stoops down and looks at the contents of Elsayed’s bag and only finds medicine. Ronnie lets out an exasperated breath.
Back at MIU, Ronnie and Joe question Elsayed, who is there with his brief. Elsayed acts as if this is funny. He thinks they are incompetent, asking whoever heard of a man with angina and a stomach upset bringing London to a standstill. He asks if he thought that with the sodium bicarbonate that he would bake everybody to death? Joe reminds him it is used to make bombs, the same as the nitroglycerine, and Elsayed reminds him nitro is also a vasodilator. He asks why they are still holding him and laughs, asking if they are they afraid he may have a secret supply of paracetamol? They question him about Ranya and her payments to him and he says she thinks British doctors are incompetent. Ronnie shows him a photo of her dead body, and asks for his whereabouts at the time of her murder. He seems shocked. He says he had dinner alone and then went straight to be. He was at the hotel restaurant and says the staff can verify it.
In the office area, Angela tells Ronnie and Joe that forensics found traces of blood in Ranya’s stairwell and it is hers. Ronnie seems happy at the news but then an angry Wes calls him and Joe over.
In Wes’ office, Wes is irate and they try to explains their reasoning and while Wes agrees it is suspicious but is angry it put them on the 9:00 news. He tells them he wants Elsayed out of their hair before the Egyptian embassy weighs in. Joe tries to explain but Wes sternly asks if they are clear. Angela interrupts and says they will want to hear the voice mail that the translator had worked on. Joe tells Ronnie and Joe to get out.
They listen to the voice mail which is from Tariq, asking if Elsayed had arrived, even though he said previously he did not know him. Angela also informs them Tariq lost his job six months ago and she shows them a translation of an email he sent to his mother last week. Angela says it is a begging letter and Joe believes this is a motive. Ronnie tells Angela to check cameras between Muswell Hill and High Gate for last night and have a warrant for their place. Ronnie tells Joe they need to get Tariq around for a cup of tea and a nice custard crème.
Later, with Tariq in interrogation, they confront him with what they know. He doesn’t understand why they think asking his mother for money is motive, and Ronnie mentions the rejection. He says that night he was in bed shortly after 10 and his wife can confirm it.
Meanwhile, his wife Safia is also in a separate room and Joe comes in the room and says he needs a witness statement. He asks a few general questions about Tariq’s mother and she seems to know nothing. Joe asks if anyone left the house after her mother in law drove home, and she says she and Tariq went straight to bed.
At the Mahmoud home in Muswell Hill on March 21, Joe is there and a search is underway. He gets a call from Ronnie and tells Ronnie he thinks both Tariq and his wife lied. They are sleeping in separate rooms.
Wes, along with Ronnie is now questioning Safia at MIU and when they mention they could take Laila away she gets upset. She says she can’t tell them.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marsh is with Laila at another room, Laila says her parents were shouting at each other, it was in Arabic and too fast for her. She says her parents never fight, they only other time was when her dad wanted her to go to Egypt for the summer. After the shouting stopped it was quiet for a bit, then she heard the front door. She saw her father driving up the hill, and he wasn’t drunk, he doesn’t drink.
Later, Ronnie and Joe confront Tariq about his lie about leaving the house and he says it was the previous night, she is confused. The detectives continue to press Tariq but he denies killing his mother for money. He explains when she dies, her money goes to a trust fund for Laila that she gets when she turns 18. He and his wife set it up. He realizes they did not know this.
Later. Ronnie watches the CCTV video and shows Wes the car on the night in question, but it’s Safia who is driving.
Ronnie approaches Joe and says Laila was not lying when she saw the car leave, but it was Safia driving. Safia is sitting nearby with Laila and Ronnie arrests her. She gets very upset as they take hew away and Laila screams out for her mummy.
Afterwards, in interrogation, Ronnie shows Safia the photo of her in the car. Both detectives press her and she says she did not mean to do it. She said she had no choice. Meanwhile, Wes and Kate Barker watch from the video observation room and discuss that Safia covered this up. Wes thinks they have enough for murder but Kate needs a clear motive. But she tells him to do it.
Wes and Ronnie discuss the case and Ronnie asks Joe if he thinks Elsayed had nothing to do with this. Wes reminds him Elsayed’s alibi checks out. Joe wonders why Tariq and Safia slept in separate rooms. Ronnie thinks it means nothing and tells him to forget about the paperwork and they will start again tomorrow. Joe tells them to go ahead, he wants to check something out.
Later. Joe watches the video of Laila with Dr. Marsh and focuses on Laila’s comment about her parents arguing about her going to Egypt. He calls over to Clive and asks if he found a CV for Elsayed, and Clive says yes. Clive hands him a file and Joe calls a number and asks if it is a Dr. Alistair Turnbull.
At St. Thomas Hospital on March 24, Turnbull says Elsayed did some of his training there but did not know it was listed on his CV. Turnbull says Elsayed is an accomplished surgeon but when Turnbull and is wife were in Cairo in 2006 he thought he’d drop in on Elsayed and there were young girls in his waiting room, far too many to need a gynecologist. He asks Joe if he has heard of the term cutting or FGM, and Joe nods. It is female genital mutilation, a surgical removal of the external genitalia. Joe scowls and says he knows what it is, he should have seen this before. Turnbull explains he discovered it was a substantial part of Elsayed’s practice.
At CPS on March 24, Joe explains to Jake Thorne and Kate that Ranya paid Dr. Elsayed to cut Laila and Safia wasn’t going to stand for it. He cites the 6 grand round trip and Jake says that is not evidence. Kate asks why Safia didn’t tell him about it, and Joe thinks she is scared. He’s seen it before; there is a wall of silence with FGM; he’s talking intimidation, violent retribution, the works. Kate sees it as a motive but also as a defense. Jake says what might have happened doesn’t justify murder. Kate argues if this is true, it is premeditated child abuse. Jake counters that unless Ranya was standing over her granddaughter with a knife in her hand, the is no defense.
At Central Crown Court at a bail hearing on March 28, Madeline Morgan argues that Safia is no threat, but Judge Maisden is concerned Safia could absconding or interfering with witnesses so he refuses bail and remands Safia. Safia argues but they take her away.
At Crown vs Mahmoud, trial day 2 on April 17, Tariq testifies about the argument in the night in question and says you can’t give kids whatever they want; love means protecting them. His mother taught him to be firm and believed it strongly. His mother and Safia never saw eye to eye but his mother was looking out for Laila. He explains how kids are sexualized these days and says it is his duty to protect Laila.
Afterwards, as they walk outside the courthouse, Kate tells Jake she thinks Joe is right, Laila is in danger. Jake believes Tariq is not stupid and he won’t do anything while his wife is on trial for murder. He thinks Joe can contact childrens’ services to make sure Laila is closely monitored. Kate asks if Jake is honestly okay with that. Jake asks what is she suggesting, and Kate explains if Safia tells Madeline Morgan about the threat of FGM, she will argue defense of another. She suggests they offer manslaughter. Jake says if Safia hasn’t told Morgan by now, she not going to/ Their job is to prosecute and whatever they think about it, Safia killed a woman and she had to pay for her crime. Jake walks off. Kate pauses to think about it.
In the holding area, Morgan speaks with Safia and Kate approaches and tells Morgan she needs a word – right now. Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, Jake paces. Kate, still in the holding area, explains to Safia that she can’t rely enough on a lack of motive to save her. She urges Safia to tell Morgan and that she knows about Dr. Elsayed. Morgan tells Kate she does not know what she is doing but she think she should leave. Kate goes on to tell Safia that if a jury finds her guilty of murder, then Laila will be Safia’s age when she gets out and she can’t be a good mother from behind bars.
Jake is still waiting in the courtroom when Kate returns, along with Morgan. Jake gives Kate a look, and she tells him that someone had to tell her. Jake looks displeased.
With Tariq in the witness box, Morgan questions him about suspecting his wife of the murder and he did not tell the police. He felt it was a mistake and he could not believe it. He knows his wife and it must have been an accident. Morgan says he needs to tell the truth about why this happened, and she brings up the continued arguments about female matters and about trying to send Laila to Egypt. When Tariq won’t cooperate, Morgan says his mother was planning on having Laila mutilated and she asks him to explain the term FGM – female genital mutilation. Morgan thinks he may call it something else but that is what they are talking about here. Jake leaps up and objects to Morgan’s manner of questioning Tariq as he is not on trial. Morgan counters that if Ranya was planning to carry out an act of illegal abuse against Laila then Safia was acting in defense of another. The judge agrees with Morgan and reminds Tariq that he is under oath. Morgan goes on to ask Tariq if his mother paid Elsayed to fly in from Cairo and perform FGM on his daughter. He says yes, and admits this was what he and Safia were arguing about the night his mother died. Jake looks at Kate and does not look happy.
Back at CPS in Henry Sharpe’s office, Jake, in a raised voice, says to Kate that they could jeopardize the whole case. Henry asks Kate if she has any other..but she interrupts and says the jury has a right to hear all the evidence. Jake shouts they have a duty to see justice done however bitter the taste. Kate starts to argue back but Henry cuts her off. He asks Jake how this changes things, and Jake says the defense have added a parallel argument and now claim it was accidental and in defense of another. Kate says it seems to her that is entirely reasonable given the circumstances. Jake’s voice is raised more and he says Safia can’t claim to be protecting her daughter when her daughter is in a different postcode. Jake knows they don’t always see eye to eye but says Kate has lost her objectivity. Kate thinks she is seeing things pretty clearly. Henry asks loudly if he needs to know their heads together? Kate explains she tried to stay professional but she is sorry, she thinks it is best if Jake handles this one without her. She storms out of the office and slams the door.
Afterwards, Kate storms into MIU with a file folder and tells Joe he wants him to build a case against Elsayed. Joe makes light of her coming in and making demands, and she smiles and says she needs a favor. She mentions Elsayed and Joe says he is long gone to Egypt, they couldn’t detain him forever. Kate says she’s been looking through his case; he’s a cutter for hire and has been here regularly. She shows him several instances, all two or three day trips. Joe tells her she needs badge and a desk. Joe explains even if Elsayed does come back it will not be easy, and when she begs Joe, he says they need to find someone who is willing to give evidence against them, She thinks they go back to Tariq and she doesn’t think he knows what FGM really entails; she thinks his mother took control just like she did with everything else. She thinks he kept the details from her and he was completely under her thumb. Now that she is gone, he might listen to reason.
At the Mahmoud home on April 18, Joe explains conspiracy to commit FGM is a criminal offense. Joe asks Tariq if he even knows what it is, or thinks it is just women’s business? Joe says it is his business now especially if he has to raise Laila on her own. Laila enters the room with Tariq’s sister Yasmin and Tariq asks Yasmin to take Laila out for a few minutes. Tariq explains his sister came from Cairo to help out. Joe tells Tariq they are not interested in him, they want Elsayed, and if he agrees to give evidence against him, Joe will recommend he not be charged. Joe says Tariq know what’s best for his family. Tariq asks Joe to leave.
At Crown vs Mahmoud, trial day 5 on April 22, Safia is in the witness box under Morgan’s questioning, Safia says Ranya thought the procedure would keep Laila clean and pure. She found out that she was going to have Laila cut when she heard her tell Laila about the trip to Egypt and she knew what it meant. She first went to Tariq and he would not listen. Ranya had poisoned his mind. She received a letter which said she is dirty and her daughter is a slut and she brings shame on her family. She did not know who wrote the letter but she suspects Ranya wrote it. She did not go to Ranya’s house to kill her, but she had to stand up to her for Laila. Her face was very close to her and she was shouting at her and pushing her, shouting that she and Laila where whores and her spit was going into her face and she didn’t mean…she asks the jury they must believe her, she did not mean for her to die. She cries and looks to Tariq and his sister Yasmin sitting in the gallery and says they must believe her.
Back at MIU, Joe tells Kate he checked every call made to Elsayed’s “pay as you go” phone. The dates coincide with the dates he was in the UK. He made some house calls but the minute he mentions FGM, they got quiet, mostly the moms. Kate suggests she try.
In court, Jake questions Safia and she has to admit the staircase in Ranya’s apartment is made of stone, and Jake says a 632 year old grandmother being pushed down those stairs carries a risk of death. He asks her if she is aware intent to cause serious bodily harm is grounds to convict in a murder trial . She says it happened very fast and it was an accident, she was protecting her daughter, Jake asks where was her daughter, and when Safia replies she was at home, Jake adds she was tucked up safely in her bed, in no immediate danger. Safia says it is not so simple. They thought the danger was gone but Ranya paid Elsayed to come here and he was right in London to cut her daughter, She tried to run away and said to Tariq that they must leave and go anywhere but he doesn’t understand how bad it is. Jake asks her if she has any actual evidence to support her claims that Laila was in danger, and Safia says there would not be any evidence until it was too late. Jake asks if she thinks taking another’s life is a reasonable and proportionate response, and Safia says he does not understand – girls bleed to death because of this, or they die from infections from dirty blades. If you are lucky and you don’t die, it is only luck. Jake tries to ask another question but she interrupts and says going to the bathroom hurts every time. Kate is watching from the gallery as Safia goes on to say that sometimes to have a baby is hard, it hurts to run, walk, and even bleed every month. And not just the body, it hurts the mind too; nightmares that will not go away, ever. Jake asks how she knows these things, She pauses and looks at the jury, and then states that it happened to her. She was 9, they had no instruments only the scissors. There was no anesthetic. She screamed for three days, they had not stitched her properly. Those in the courtroom looks stunned.
In the courthouse halls, Kate approaches Tariq and asks him that he had no idea how much Safia had suffered, He said his mother made an excuse for Safia and he believed her. Kate explains they really need his help, she’s trying to stop Elsayed from mutilating other young girls and to think of the girls they will be saving, young extraordinary girls just like Laila.
At Crown vs Mahmoud, trial day 6 on April 23, Morgan is making a closing argument and while doing so, Yasmin shouts out in Arabic that Safia is guilty and she is nothing but a westernized whore and she will pay for what she did to their mother. Tariq tries to pull her to sit back down. Yasmin shouts that she will cut Safia’s filthy daughter herself if she has to. Safia leaps up and runs to Yasmin and says, also in Arabic, that she is not sorry she killed her and she would do it again. Yasmin is rushed out of the courtroom and the judge dismisses the court for the day while he hears from interpreters on what was said. Tariq walks quickly out of the courtroom as Safia sits back down.
Later, in Henry Sharpe’s office, Jake tells him a reduced sentence is no good for Safia if her only concern is Laila being cut. Kate thinks if Safia knew Laila was safe, she would accept a manslaughter charge. Henry asks how do they know she is safe, and Kate explains that Tariq will give evidence against Elsayed. She adds if the judge is compassionate, she will get 3-4 years and they have still made their point. Henry sighs and asks Jake what he thinks. Jake pauses and then says he can’t believe he is saying this, but maybe Kate is right, this should be a manslaughter trial.
At a later date in court, Safia pleads guilty to the charge of manslaughter. The judge sentences her to 4 years in prison. The first half will be in custody and then she will be released to serve the remainder in her community. She looks relieved. Jake looks back at Kate, who is smiling. Joe, sitting in the gallery, also looks relieved.
Afterwards, in the courthouse hall, Joe walks with Kate and tells her she did a good thing. She replies given the bigger picture, she’s not exactly doing cartwheels. Joe tells her one of Elsayed’s victims called the NSPCC asking to help them and this girl is brave as a lion. Joe says Elsayed’s cutting days are over. Kate comments that Elsayed is still in Egypt, but Joe says not for long, turns out he is flying into Heathrow in a few days. Joe tells Kate to start practicing her cartwheels.
Tariq comes down a stairway and calls out to Kate, and she thanks Joe and Joe walks off. Tariq wanted to thank her as Ms. Morgan said she pushed hard for this. Kate asks when he last spoke with her, and he asks why. Kate explains that Safia still believes Laila is at risk due to the actions of his sister. It is very unlikely that Tariq will be granted custody of Laila before his wife gets out. He is shocked, and says he is Laila’s father. Kate explains it may only be temporary, until the authorities are satisfied she will be safe with him. He is stunned. She tells him she is sorry and she walks off.
In the holding area, Safia is waiting and Kate comes in, saying she got her five minutes. Laila comes in and Safia sobs as she embraces her daughter. Laila tells her to please don’t go as they continue to say their farewells while Kate looks on.
At Heathrow, Dr. Elsayed arrives and stops dead in his tracks when he sees Ronnie there, holding a large card with his name on it and Joe standing behind him. Ronnie tells Joe, “Your battle son, your glory.” Joe gets out his cuffs and moves to arrest Elsayed under Section 3 of the Female Mutilation Act 2003, reading him his rights. Ronnie tears up the card with Elsayed’s name on it, smirking. He balls up the paper in his hand as we cut to black.
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