A mother-of-two has revealed her husband of 25 years tried to kill her by smothering her with a pillow and stabbing her in the head after she asked for a divorce.
Shahla Walker, 55, from Gateshead, married Nezam Ghalate, 53, in 1995 – but after welcoming two daughters, their marriage began to fall apart.
In January 2022, she told Nezam she wanted a divorce, before waking up to find he had attacked her.
Her screams woke their 18-year-old daughter, who struck her father with a lamp and eventually resorted to stabbing him in the head in a desperate effort to save her mother.
Shahla survived the gruesome attack but was left with 14 stab wounds to her face and neck as well as a broken arm.
Nezam pleaded guilty to attempted murder and has been sentenced to 20 years at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown Court.
Shahla, who has been left unable to work, said: ‘That night will haunt me for the rest of my life.
‘I still can’t believe my husband of 25 years tried to murder me. But I’m determined to stay strong for my girls.’
Shahla and Nezam married in 1995 and initially shared a happy marriage together.
She said: ‘But as time went on, the life we’d built together wasn’t good enough for him and he became miserable.
‘Years later, he developed severe anxiety. It was so bad that he’d shake me in the night claiming someone was in the garden but there was never anyone there.
‘I was so worried about him.’
In 2000 Shahla told Nezam to go to the GP and he was subsequently put on anxiety medication.
The couple, over the next few years, went on to have two daughters who are now aged 12 and 18.
She added: ‘The pressure of providing not only as a husband, but also a father got to Nezam.
‘Yet he could never find a job, and I was busy caring for our children.
‘His mental health got worse and whenever I left the house, he’d call and text me constantly begging me to come home.
‘He also stopped taking his tablets and going to his doctor’s appointments.’
Nezam accused Shahla of having affairs and began self-medicating with marijuana and alcohol.
Shahla said: ‘We argued non-stop. Whenever I threatened to leave him, he’d fall into a deep depression.
‘He’d warn me that he was going to jump off a bridge if I ever left him and it broke my heart.
‘I told him constantly that he couldn’t do that to me or the girls. I was trapped. After I gave him another chance, he’d promise to get help but he never did.
‘As the girls got older and wiser, they grew concerned too and urged me to end things.’
Shahla hit breaking point in January 2022 and told Nezam she wanted a divorce.
‘Nezam just stared at me blankly and didn’t say anything. It was our eldest daughter’s 18th birthday the next day, so I told him we’d tell the girls the day after.’
Shahla took her daughter out for her birthday the next day before returning home in the evening.
Nezam was watching TV in silence, while her other daughter was doing her homework.
Shahla told Nezam she was going to sleep and went upstairs to bed – when she was suddenly awoken because she could not breathe.
She said: ‘Someone was on top of me. They were smothering me with a pillow. I thought it was an intruder and I began screaming for Nezam to help.
‘I felt something sharp hit my head, then, again in my face. It was a knife.
‘In agony, I pleaded with the person to stop. But they kept pushing the pillow down harder and my screams were muffled.
‘Suddenly, I heard my eldest daughter’s voice and she was yelling “Please Daddy stop it! Mummy loves you.”
‘I realised it was Nezam. I couldn’t comprehend it.’
Nezam struck Shahla in the head with the knife again and she fought for her life.
While he stabbed her in the neck, shoulders and head, their daughter pleaded with him to stop.
Nezam told his daughter: ‘She doesn’t love. I want to kill her. She makes me crazy.’
Their daughter began hitting her father with lamps and objects around the bedroom until she ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and stabbed him in the head.
Meanwhile Shahla and Nezam’s younger daughter, who was awoken by the commotion, was on the phone to emergency services.
Shahla added: ‘As Nezam was stabbed, he groaned and collapsed to the floor. I could finally breathe.
‘But as I tried to run, he grabbed me again.
‘We scuffled and he pressed a pillow onto my face again, but this time with his knees.
‘I knew I was going to die. But my daughter’s voice telling me to stay with her, kept me alive.’
Moments later Shahla blacked out but police and paramedics stormed in and pulled Nezam off Shahla.
Shahla was blue-lighted to Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospital where she underwent an emergency nine-hour surgery.
She survived was left with 14 stab wounds to her head, shoulders and neck, a broken arm and needed an emergency blood transfusion.
Nezam was also admitted to the same hospital with stab wounds, but his injuries weren’t serious and he was swiftly arrested.
Shahla said: ‘As I recovered in hospital, I was hysterical. I didn’t understand how my husband could try to murder me.
‘He’d never laid a finger on me before. My heart ache was worse than my wounds.
‘When I saw my reflection, I didn’t recognise myself. I was black and blue.’
In October 2022, Nezam Ziae Ghalate, now 53, of Gateshead, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to attempted murder at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown Court and was sentenced to 20 years.
Shahla says: ‘I was relieved he was locked away and so were the girls. They never wanted to see their dad again and neither did I.
‘I’ve since developed PTSD and my face, jaw and hands aren’t back to normal. I have physio every week and I hide my scars with make-up and hair.
‘I’m trying to concentrate on being the best mum I can now. I’ll forever be thankful to the girls for saving my life.’