Jun 5 2009
Maybe Allah told them to do it? Jury in tears for little girl who looked like ‘famine victim after being starved to death by mother and her boyfriend.’
A girl of seven looked like a ‘famine victim’ after being starved to death by her mother and her boyfriend, a court has heard. Jury members wept as they were shown a harrowing mortuary photograph of Khyra Ishaq, who was so emaciated that her body mass index could not be measured.
The once happy and healthy child died after Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza kept her an ‘effective prisoner’ in their home for five months and deprived her of food despite having a well-stocked kitchen, it was alleged.
Opening the case at Birmingham Crown Court, prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC said Khyra was starved to a point that medical experts say is ‘almost unique’ in Britain.
He told the jury: ‘Her weight and some of her developmental features were so extraordinary, so out of kilter with normality, that they cannot be measured on any of the normal childhood development data in this Western country.’ Referring to the photo taken shortly after her death, he added: ‘Unhappily you may have seen images like this in other contexts on television such as famine in Africa.
‘It shows the cruelty and maltreatment of that little girl which, you may come to think, was both calculated and deliberate.’
Abuhamza has admitted cruelty charges against five other children, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Gordon, who was wearing a black headscarf and long black robes as she sat next to Abuhamza in the dock yesterday, denies cruelty charges against the five other children.
Abuhamza, who was born Samuel Williams and changed his name after converting to Islam, took Khyra out of school in December 2007 and defied police and social services requests to search the house. Mr Raggatt said: ‘Visits from social welfare and other outsiders were kept as brief and perfunctory as possible and no co-operation was shown.’
Mr Raggatt said Khyra and the other children were all deliberately kept short of food, beaten with a cane and ‘treated with persistent, deliberate and obvious cruelty’ Mr Raggatt said: ‘The household was not short of food, there was ample food for everyone. The important point is that the supply of it was sealed off for the children.
‘They would get some food, porridge for example, which they had to eat with their hands in their room, or dried bread and occasionally fruit. In the evening a bowl was placed on the floor and they would have to share it.’
Mr Raggatt said that if the children tried to feed themselves they were punished, either by being hit or put into ‘detention’ standing in the back garden or an outhouse. ‘Sometimes if food was stolen they were made to overeat until they were sick,’ he said.
Neighbours sometimes heard children’s screams of ‘Let me out, let me out’ coming from the house, the court heard, and an underfed girl was once spotted standing next to a bird table in a neighbour’s garden.
A post mortem found that all Khyra’s internal organs had significantly reduced in size, except her lungs and brain.
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