The convicted killer with his murdered wife. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced a medical doctor to death by hanging after he admitted to having killed his wife and three children in a case that shocked the nation.

The verdict was delivered by the Criminal Court in the Nile Delta province of Kafr Al Shaikh after Egypt’s grand mufti backed the ruling, legal sources said.

On February 3, the same court issued a preliminary death sentence against the defendant and referred it to the country’s top Muslim authority, a routine procedure in Egypt in cases involving death sentences.

The verdict was passed just after three hearing sessions of the trial, the legal sources added. Still, it can be appealed.

When the trial opened in January, the defendant, identified as Ahmad Abdullah, confessed to the murder, declining to give details. He attributed the multiple killings to what he described as “private reasons” and refused to hire a defence lawyer.

Investigations revealed that the murder was committed due to a long-running family dispute.

The 30-year-old wife and her three children aged four, six and eight were found stabbed to death inside their apartment in the district of Sakhah in Kafr Al Shaikh, around 140km north of Cairo.

The killings triggered panic in the area as the husband, a doctor at a local hospital, reported to police he had discovered the murder of his family and the disappearance of his wife’s jewellery on his return from work on the New Year’s Eve in an attempt to mislead police. The 36-year-old man later admitted to the knife killings, which were extensively reported in the Egyptian media

The murder has fuelled worries about a recent spike in multiple family crimes in the mostly conservative country. In July, a man was arrested over killing his wife and two daughters inside their house in Cairo, citing financial problems.

A month later, a man in the province of Dakahlia, north of Cairo, was charged with killing his two children by throwing them into the River Nile allegedly under the influence of drugs.