'Chilling cruelty' pair jailed after child starved to death
Published 13/03/2010 | 05:00
The mother and stepfather of a seven-year-old girl -- who starved to death -- were jailed for her manslaughter yesterday by a judge who branded their treatment of the child "chilling in its harshness and cruelty".
Khyra Ishaq died in May 2008 when her body succumbed to an infection after months of starvation at her home in Handsworth, Birmingham. Mr Justice Roderick Evans sentenced her mother, Angela Gordon (35), to 15 years and jailed her former partner, Junaid Abuhamza (31) indefinitely for the public's protection, with a minimum term of seven and a half years.
The pair were cleared of Khyra's murder during a trial at Birmingham Crown Court last month but convicted of her manslaughter.
Both were also given concurrent sentences for child cruelty charges, which they had admitted, relating to five other children in their care and control.
The judge told them: "It is not right to say that these children suffered from neglect. Neglect is an inadequate description. Rather, they were subjected to a domestic regime of punishment which was chilling in its harshness and cruelty."
During the trial, jurors heard that Khyra was removed from school in December 2007 and subjected to a punishment regime which included standing outside in the cold or in front of a fan for long periods, having cold water poured over her and being beaten with a cane.
She and the five other children were deprived of food and prevented from entering the fully-stocked kitchen by a bolt on the door. At mealtimes they were given a bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between them.
The panel was told that, by the time of her death, Khyra had lost about 40pc of her body weight. Mr Justice Evans said months of starvation had left her immune system "unable to resist infection".
He added: "It was infection resulting from malnutrition which led to the bronchopneumonia and septicaemia which were the immediate cause of her death. In real terms, however, she died of starvation in a house in which there was an abundance of food."
Mr Justice Evans told Abuhamza, who suffers from schizophrenia, that, after the term of seven and a half years, his release would not be automatic, adding: "You will be released when the authorities are satisfied that you no longer present a risk to the public."