They had the wedding day booked, a deposit down on a four-bedroom forever home in Solihull and plans to start a family.
For Anessha Khan, then 23, her life with fiancé Naveed Saleem, 32, was a living ‘fairy tale’.
Until one morning, after a date night at the cinema – she found the ‘love of her life’ dead in the driver’s seat of his blacked-out Range Rover.
Robbery wasn’t a motive for his multiple stab wounds, with the keys to the businessman’s £60,000 4×4, his Rolex watch and wallet containing £250 all left untouched.
Seventeen long and difficult years have passed – but his killer is still walking the streets.
Breaking her silence for the first time since the tragedy, Anessha – now 40 – said her ‘whole life was ripped away from her’ the moment she made the horrifying discovery on August 26, 2003.
The night before, the couple had been to watch a film and pick up some food before heading to her home in Wellesley Gardens, Moseley.
She thought Naveed, who she was due to marry a month later, had left in his car to go home. But when Anessha woke – his motor was still parked on the street, his body inside.
“I woke up in the morning. I had this bad feeling,” she recalled.
“I ran to my window and I saw his car still parked out there, so I’m thinking: ‘What’s happened?’
“‘Why hasn’t he gone home, why is he sleeping in his car? It doesn’t make sense’.
“I ran to the car, it was blacked out because it was a Range Rover. I ran to the passenger side, I was still talking because he looked like he was sleeping, I couldn’t see anything else.
“It was only when I ran to the other side and I opened the door that I discovered he was dead.”
After his death, Anessha spiralled into ‘major depression’ and struggled to cope. She has never met anyone else, married or had children amid the decades of waiting for justice.
“We were just living such a fairytale life, it was perfect, I had no stresses, no worries,” she continued, while choking back tears.
“You know when your whole life is just ripped away from you? We were due to be married on September 28.
“We had a deposit down on a four-bedroom detached house in Solihull as well, we had everything in motion, but then he was murdered.”
“I got rid of the house straight away. I left the country, I went to Australia for three months, I couldn’t cope. I left my job everything, just to get away from everything.”
Two men were charged with murdering Mr Saleem but were both found not guilty at a Birmingham Crown Court trial in 2005.
“It went to trial twice, all I remember is going through this whole process again. Police said the verdict could take a while for the jury to decide, I wanted to stay but police insisted I go home.
“As I pulled in from the city centre to Moseley, I got a phone call to say it was a not guilty verdict and then no further explanation from police.
“All they said to me is they were closing the case for lack of evidence and that was it, end of.”
Anessha, who had been with Naveed for five years but known him since she was just four, said she even contacted a private detective to investigate in her search for answers.
“It has always, always bothered me. I can’t understand why there was no information, it was a massive investigation,” she explained.
“It’s been very difficult because he was the love of my life. I went to see a private detective and he said I would be opening Pandora’s box, I would need £10,000 to start with – and it could be a continuous cost which I didn’t have.
“They tried to send me to counselling, but I found counselling wasn’t great. I wanted answers, and in counselling they don’t give you answers, they just get you to think differently.”
At first, she said she found it too difficult to look at the old photos of her and Naveed together. But now she can look back fondly, remembering the man who was ‘always smiling’.
“Now I can look at my pictures, and I talk about him all day long if people want to. Some people find the subject sour, thinking I’d be upset, but I love speaking about him, he was so kind-hearted and always smiling.
“He was very intelligent, very kind, always had a great sense of humour. He was the type of person who would make anything possible. He amazed me.”
She added that when the businessman, who was well-known for his ‘kindness, character and cars’ died, they learned more of the work he did in the community – including ‘paying for people’s mortgages’.
But no-one has ever come forward with evidence to secure a conviction over his death.
In a plea for new information, Anessha said: “What it needs now is new evidence to come forward. I just feel someone must know something.
“I just want justice for him. I think once I’ve got justice for him, I think then I can move on, because in my heart, I know, I’ll have done everything I could to bring him justice.”
BirminghamLive has contacted West Midlands Police for the latest information on the cold case.