Lesbians guilty of killing child
A mother and her lesbian lover have been found guilty of killing an eight-year-old girl after getting caught up in a twisted romance revolving around fictional Facebook characters.
Polly Chowdhury, 35, and Kiki Muddar, 43, were on trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of the Chowdhury's daughter Ayesha Ali at their home in Chadwell Heath, east London, in August 2013.
The jury, which retired on February 19, cleared them of murder but found them guilty of manslaughter by a majority of 10-2 after deliberating for more than 31 hours.
Both women held their heads in their hands as the verdicts were delivered.
On the morning of August 29, 2013, Muddar dialled 999 to report Chowdhury had tried to kill herself in the bath and that Ayesha was dead.
Paramedics discovered the child "cold and stiff" in her bedroom dressed only in a pair of pink pants. Although the cause of her death was a head injury, she suffered more than 40 injuries, including a bite mark and carpet burns.
Chowdhury had left a series of notes, appearing to admit the killing, saying: "I have taken my life and Ayesha's life".
But during the course of the investigation, police discovered evidence implicating Muddar in Ayesha's death.
Officers unravelled a set of alter egos on Facebook and text which Muddar had created to control and seduce Chowdhury, turning her against her daughter because she saw her as a threat.
Muddar had befriended Chowdhury when they lived next door to each other and she got sympathy by pretending to be fighting cancer.
Chowdhury's husband Afsar Ali moved the family to get away from her influence, but Muddar followed and evicted him from the marital bed, leading to the breakdown of the marriage.
Meanwhile, Muddar spun a web of lies and deceit through her fake personas, including Chowdhury's cyber boyfriend Jimmy.
She was also behind a fake Muslim spirit guide Skyman, used to prey on Chowdhury's religious belief in ghosts and messages from beyond the grave.
Muddar, who claimed to work as an engineer for the Olympics, expressed her hatred for the innocent child in a series of phone calls and texts which she kept copies of, and even blamed Ayesha for making her cancer worse, the court heard.
She told Chowdhury, a solicitors' admin worker, that Ayesha was "evil" and had "bad blood" and repeatedly encouraged her to discipline the child.
She bombarded Chowdhury with more than 40,000 texts telling her: "You have no right to ever love or like your evil daughter".
In a recorded phone conversation with a friend the month before the killing, Muddar described Ayesha as a "pure evil" and a "witch" and threatened to drown her in the bath.
Days before the killing the couple, who were both horror film fans, terrorised Ayesha in the night by taking it in turns to wear a scary mask.
A neighbour heard her screaming, sobbing and then pleading with her mother: "Amah, I don't want to be bad, Amah, Amah I don't want to be bad."
After Ayesha's death, Muddar reacted dismissively when she told a paramedic: "She was a naughty child and mum thought she was possessed by the devil."
Muddar, of Green Lane, Ilford, and Chowdhury, of Broomfield Road, Chadwell Heath, both denied murder, manslaughter and causing or allowing the death of a child between March 1 and August 29, 2013.
Muddar, who was diagnosed with a borderline narcissistic personality disorder, refused to give evidence but claimed to be at her parents' house on the night the little girl died, although a pathologist said she could have been killed hours before she left.
Chowdhury wept in court as she described how Muddar was giving Ayesha a cold bath as punishment for wetting herself around the time she received her fatal injury.
Earlier, she said she had found Muddar with her foot on the girl's chest in the bathroom, but after pushing her off, she went back to job-hunting on her computer in the living room.
Both women denied they were in a physical relationship, but Chowdhury told a psychiatrist that Muddar had "groomed" her for sex.
After the verdicts, Ayesha's distraught father Afsar Ali, 35, said he would never forgive his former wife for falling under the spell of their "evil" neighbour when she should have been keeping their "perfect child" from harm.
He said: "As a mother she has to live with the pain for the rest of her life, I guess. The child you gave birth to - to take her life away - that is something I can never forgive. There are only two people I blame - that's her and Kiki.
Mr Ali, who attended court every day of the trial, described his daughter as a "perfect child" and "my angel in disguise".
He added: "Ayesha was an amazing child. Intelligent, loving, caring and passionate about life and world poverty. She loved life and her family and all she wanted was to be part of a happy family. I was her super hero, her super daddy.
"She was a well-mannered child and always had a smile on her face. She was the love of my life and I nearly lost her when she was born premature and was on an incubator for a very long time, fighting for her life.
"She was my angel in disguise. She was a perfect child any parent could wish for."
Judge Christopher Moss QC remanded the women in custody to be sentenced on Friday morning.