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Monster mum

When neighbours saw the face of a little girl at a bedroom window, they thought little of it. She gazed down silently. She didn't wave and she didn't cry.

Now residents in a Birmingham suburb are convinced that Khyra Ishaq was locked in the room without food.

A few days later, paramedics found her emaciated body, the victim of a strict punishment regime meted out by her mother and her partner.

Throughout the trial, jurors heard disturbing details of the final weeks of the young girl's life, and how social services failed to recognise the seriousness of the situation. Social workers were refused entry to the home by an aggressive Angela Gordon, not uncommon in the field of child protection.

But despite seeing Khyra three months before her death, they saw no cause for alarm.

Until her parents' marriage failed, Khyra appeared to live a normal and happy family life. Photos of her taken before Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza became a couple in 2007 show a healthy girl with a big smile. However, in December of that year life changed dramatically.

Khyra was removed from school and Gordon, who left school at 16 and was twice divorced, refused to admit visitors.

Behind closed doors six children were slowly being starved by two adults who maintained a fully stocked kitchen for themselves. On the rare occasions that Khyra and her siblings were fed, they were given dry bread or porridge, in one shared bowl, which they had to eat with their hands on the floor.

If the children were caught "stealing" food, they were punished with "detention" -- beaten with a cane, or made to stand outside in the cold or over-eat until they were sick.

Only when Khyra was hours from death did her mother call for help. When paramedics arrived at the house at 5.45am on May 17, 2008, they discovered a girl so malnourished that she had lost 40pc of her body weight. She was, according to the prosecution, "quite literally skin and bone". She died soon after being admitted to hospital.

Although Khyra eventually succumbed to an infection, she had no natural underlying health issues before her death.

"Her body was reduced to such a pathetic condition that it could resist no kind of disease at all," the court heard. Khyra weighed just 2st 9lb at the point of her death.

Two of the other children living at the house were found to be in a state of acute, severe and dangerous malnutrition, starved to a point where their lives were at risk. All six children had suffered a sustained campaign of cruelty and violence.

Gordon (35) was found guilty of manslaughter. She will be sentenced next week.

Khyra's father, Ishaq Abu-Zaire (37) said: "If I could turn back the clock I would smash the door down and take my children back by force," he said.

hnews@herald.ie


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