Story By: Feza Uzay, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
A husband accused of pushing his pregnant wife who was scared of heights off a cliff after persuading her to take out loans and a life insurance policy that he used to fund a jet-set lifestyle has been jailed for 30 years.
Hakan Aysal, 40, was convicted after a passerby videoed him almost dragging his seven-month-pregnant wife Semra Aysal, 32, to the top of the cliff while they were on holiday in Butterfly Valley in the district of Fethiye in the south-eastern Turkish province of Mugla in June 2018.
Police started an investigation after the woman’s family complained that he had been posting pictures of his new life travelling the world, and that jogged the memory of another tourist at the scene at the time, who had accidentally filmed the couple as he was forcing the pregnant woman to the clifftop.
Recep Sahin, who filmed the footage where Semra was seen for the last time atop the cliff moments before her death, took the stand at a previous hearing and told the court: “I stopped there to see the view of Kabak Bay with my family.
“My daughter was filming the view with my phone and the Aysal couple came down the slope at that moment.
“We even joked, ‘either this man will throw the woman off or the woman will throw the man’.”
Another witness said the defendant appeared calm after the incident when the emergency services were on the scene. He said: “I was driving there when I saw someone was waving at me, and I stopped.
“Hakan came and said his wife had fallen down the cliff. We immediately got out of the car and started looking for her, but we couldn’t see where she would have landed from where we were.”
He added: “We tried to get closer to the edge for a better look. Hakan did not come with us down there. We stayed there until the gendarmerie arrived. Hakan was very carefree and calm. He was not acting like a man whose wife had just had fallen off a cliff.”
The charge sheet against the husband for the crime of ‘deliberate murder’ said he had “planned the murder of his wife by first taking out a personal accident insurance on her behalf with a guarantee of TRY 400,000 (GBP 21,700) and where the only beneficiary was himself”.
The victim’s older brother, Naim Yolcu, said in a previous hearing: “When we went to the Forensic Medicine Institute to get the body, Hakan was sitting in the car. My family and I were destroyed, but Hakan did not even appear sad.”
He added: “My sister was always against taking out loans. However, after she died, we learned she had loans taken out by Hakan on behalf of my sister. Also, Hakan had a fear of heights. What extreme sport is she going to be doing when she is scared of heights?”
Local media reported that bank reports requested by the court showed that Hakan had taken out a total of seven loans on Semra’s behalf.
When asked about the insurance in a previous hearing, Hakan told the court: “I have been interested in extreme sports since 2014: parachuting, bungee jumping, rafting. That is why I took out life insurance before I got married.”
Hakan’s social media account showed countless photos of his apparently high-flying lifestyle in which he travelled all around the country and stayed in top hotels abroad.
He was asked about the article in the accident insurance stating that “in the case of Semra Aysal’s death, her heir will be her husband, Hakan Aysal. In the case of Hakan Aysal’s death, his heirs will be his relatives.”
He said: “I did not examine the policy closely. The banker arranged the paperwork. I just brought it to my wife to get it signed. I was not aware there was such an article.”
Hakan denied being responsible for Semra’s death, telling the court at the time: “After taking a photo, my wife put the phone in her bag. Later, she asked me to give her the phone. I got up and then heard my wife scream behind me when I walked a few steps away to get the phone from her bag. When I turned back, she was not there. I did not push my wife.”
At the decision hearing on 15th February, the court decided by a majority of votes to sentence the defendant to aggravated life imprisonment. This means he will only be eligible for parole after serving at least 30 years.
The presiding judge used his vote to acquit the defendant but was in the minority.
Following the hearing, Naim told reporters that the family had trusted the justice system since the outset and that justice had finally been served.
He added: “Our pain is great, but we have been relieved a little with the punishment given. He could not get away with the murder. No one will get away with femicide in Turkey.”
Femicide is a growing problem in Turkey, particularly after the country officially quit the Istanbul Convention in July last year.
According to the 2021 Annual Data Report by the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’, 280 women were killed by men in 2021, while 217 women were found suspiciously dead.