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urooj khan


The family of Urooj Khan, the lottery winner who was poisoned with cyanide the day after he collected his $1 million jackpot, are at war with his widow amid claims she tried to cash the winning cheque in the days after his death.

Urooj Khan’s brother, ImTiaz Khan, has alleged that Shabana Ansari attempted to claim the windfall “shortly” after Urooj’s death but was unable to do so.

ImTiaz Khan also claimed that his late brother and Shabana Ansari were not even married, meaning that she could miss out on half of the lottery prize to which she is entitled.

In another sign the family are tearing themselves apart, Urooj Khan’s sister, Meraj Khan, has launched a legal bid to take guardianship of his daughter Jasmeen from his first marriage.

Meraj Khan wants custody of the 17-year-old even though she appears to have lived with step-mother Shabana Ansari at her home in Chicago for most of her life.

Shabana Ansari’s lawyer said his client had been questioned for four hours by police and had “nothing to hide”.

The developments come as the Cook County Medical Examiner is expected to seek a court order to exhume Urooj Khan’s body later this week.

Family members said they do not wish to see the body if it goes ahead because it will be too traumatizing.

It is a tragic turn of events from July 19 last year when a delighted Urooj Khan, 46, collected the over-sized cheque from Illinois State Lottery officials at the 7-Eleven where he bought the winning scratchcard.

The event has revealed the first picture of Urooj Khan’s 32-year-old wife Shabana Ansari who moved to the U.S. after marrying him 12 years ago.

She can be seen wearing a green traditional Indian dress with a scarlet scarf. Her step-daughter Jasmeen Khan stands beside her wearing a grey sari.

Urooj Khan is seen smiling widely and told the TV cameras he was going to use the money to pay bills, donate to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago and grow his dry-cleaning business.

After taxes, the prize money amounted to $425,000 which he opted to take in a lump sum.

The day after receiving his winning cheque, Urooj Khan came home from work and ate a traditional Indian Kofta curry that his wife had prepared.

He died a short time later. The initial examination by the Cook County Medical examiner found he had died of heart disease or natural causes.

After his death, the winning cheque was eventually cashed on August 15. However, in probate documents filed with the Cook County Court, ImTiaz Khan suggested that Shabana Ansari had tried to do so before.

Urooj Khan pictured with wife Shabana Ansari, daughter Jasmeen and his $1 million winnings shortly before his death from cyanide poisoning

Urooj Khan pictured with wife Shabana Ansari, daughter Jasmeen and his $1 million winnings shortly before his death from cyanide poisoning

In a September filing, ImTiaz Khan writes: “Ms Shabana Ansari is in possession of the lottery cheque and is concerned she may attempt to cash the cheque again, as she did shortly after the decedent’s [Urooj Khan’s] death, even though the estate is entitled to the funds.”

ImTiaz Khan also alleges that his brother’s ‘only known heir is his daughter Jasmeen Khan’ and pointedly states that Shabana Ansari is not her biological mother.

He says he wants her to get her “fair share” and alleges “there remains question as to whether [Urooj Khan] was married to Ms Ansari”.

His filing reads: “[ImTaiz Khan’s] counsel was informed by Citibank that [Urooj Khan’s] spouse, Ms Shabana Ansari, has been in communication with the bank and believes Ms Ansari may be attempting to control [Urooj’s] accounts.”

The papers also state: “Meraj Khan, [Urooj Khan’s] sister, filed a petition for Guardian of the minor [Jasmeen] on September 19, 2012.”

As a result of the filings last year, the jackpot was frozen and will remain so for the next three months.

In response, Shabana Ansari filed documents of her own which stated she was indeed married to Urooj Khan and the court agreed, making her the administrator of the estate.

The remaining three months will allow family members to make their case to the lawyer organizing how funds will be handed out. In normal circumstances, 50% goes to the spouse and 50% to the children, unless there are grounds for complaint.

In one sense Urooj Khan, who emigrated from India in the 1980s, should not even have been gambling in the first place because of his Islamic faith.

He had recently returned to Chicago from the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, inspired to lead a better life and had sworn off buying lottery tickets – except just this once.

His death would have gone unnoticed as the first toxicology report said Urooj Khan died of heart disease.

However, two months later, a relative called the medical examiner demanding a fresh inquiry into the poisoning as he “didn’t accept it was going to be a natural death”.

During the dramatic phone call, the family member flatly rejected the original ruling and ordered investigators to have another look.

A second, more thorough toxicology report turned up the cyanide poisoning as cause of death.

Deborah Blum, a poison expert whose book The Poisoner’s Handbook is being made into a PBS TV series, said that Urooj Khan would have been in “absolute agony” after eating the cyanide.

Deborah Blum, a former chemist, said: “A good lethal dose of cyanide will kill you in ten minutes. A mid-range dose and people die within the hour. For a poison that’s pretty fast.

“Cyanide poisoning is a nasty death. There is an enzyme which allows your cells to breathe and the cyanide wipes that enzyme out.

“It suffocates you cell by cell. Symptoms include seizures, extreme shortness of breath and usually cardiac arrest.”

In her latest interview, Shabana Ansari told the Chicago Sun-Times that she hopes “God will reveal the truth”.

Shabana Ansari has previously paid tribute to her husband as a “workaholic” and vowed to keep his laundry business open to honor his memory.

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The death of Chicago lottery winner Urooj Khan has led to a murder investigation after a post-mortem examination found he died of cyanide poisoning.

Urooj Khan, 46, died suddenly as he was about to collect almost $425,000, but his death was initially attributed to natural causes.

The local coroner reopened his case after a relative came forward.

Chicago police confirmed they were now investigating Khan’s death as a homicide.

“It’s pretty unusual,” Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said, commenting on the rarity of cyanide poisonings.

“I’ve had one, maybe two cases out of 4,500 autopsies I’ve done.”

Stephen Cina’s office found that Urooj Khan died shortly after ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide.

Urooj Khan said he had sworn off gambling after making a trip to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim hajj pilgrimage, local store employee Ashur Oshana told the Associated Press.

The death of Chicago lottery winner Urooj Khan has led to a murder investigation after a post-mortem examination found he died of cyanide poisoning

The death of Chicago lottery winner Urooj Khan has led to a murder investigation after a post-mortem examination found he died of cyanide poisoning

Urooj Khan, who owned several dry cleaning stores, was named as the lottery winner and presented with a giant cheque in an Illinois lottery ceremony days after purchasing his winning ticket.

“Winning the lottery means everything to me,” he said on June 26, adding that he would put some of his winnings into his business and donate money to a children’s hospital.

He opted to take his winnings in a lump sum of just over $600,000, which amounted to about $425,000 after taxes.

Urooj Khan’s winner’s cheque was issued on July 19, the day before he died, but was cashed on August 15.

If a lottery winner dies, the money typically goes to his or her estate, a spokesman for the Illinois lottery said.

At the time, the medical examiner’s office did not generally perform autopsies on those older than 45 unless the death was suspicious. A basic toxicology screening came back negative and Urooj Khan’s death was ruled a result of the narrowing and hardening of his arteries.

Deborah Blum, a poisons expert, said cyanide would taste strongly bitter but that a lethal dose could kill within five minutes.

The poison, Deborah Blum said, disrupts the ability of cells to transport oxygen around the body, causing a convulsive, violent death.

“It essentially kills you in this explosion of cell death,” she told AP.

“You feel like you’re suffocating.”

The medical examiner’s office reopened the case and tested for a range of chemicals after a relative asked authorities to look into the case further.

Stephen Cina refused to identify the relative.

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