Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Starved Birmingham girl's mother guilty of manslaughter

Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza both had manslaughter pleas accepted
Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza starved Khyra Ishaq at their home

A mother who starved her seven-year-old daughter to death has been cleared of murder, but has admitted manslaughter.

Prosecutors accepted Angela Gordon's defence of diminished responsibility over the death of Khyra Ishaq and agreed to the lesser charge.

Gordon's partner, Junaid Abuhamza, had a manslaughter plea accepted following an earlier report on his mental health.

Khyra weighed 2st 9lb (16.5kg) when she was found severely emaciated at a house in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 2008.

Paramedics took her to Birmingham Children's Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

'Squalid conditions'

Following the end of the trial, it was revealed a judge in the High Court had concluded that "in all probability" Khyra would be alive if there had been "an adequate initial assessment by educational welfare services".

In a ruling which could only be reported at the end of the criminal trial, Mrs Justice King said: "It is beyond belief that, in 2008, in a bustling, energetic and modern city like Birmingham, a child of seven was withdrawn from school and thereafter kept in squalid conditions for a period of five months before finally dying of starvation."

Khyra Ishaq

But the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, which is carrying out a "serious case review", said current legislation had hampered intervention by people who may have been able to help Khyra.

Local Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has called for a public inquiry into social services handling of the case.

The city council said it had already carried out major improvements in the protection of vulnerable children and had improved the way it worked with other agencies.

Det Insp Sean Russell of West Midlands Police, who led the investigation, said he believed Khyra had been kept a virtual prisoner in an upstairs room.

"The defendants had created a situation in which the children, who were being educated at home, had been kept away from their extended family, friends and the outside world," he said.

Dangerous malnutrition

Birmingham Crown Court heard medical staff tending to Khyra had not seen such a severe case of malnutrition.

During the retrial - ordered after the first trial collapsed - jurors heard that Khyra was killed by an infection caused by months of deliberate starvation.

The house was well-stocked with food, but this was kept locked away out of the reach of Khyra and five other children in the care of the defendants.

Det Insp Sean Russell said his officers were "reduced to tears"

The other children were also starved, two of them suffering from dangerous malnutrition by the time they were rescued.

Gordon, 35, and Abuhamza, 31, have also admitted five charges of child cruelty relating to the other children.

The decision by the Crown to accept Gordon's plea on the lesser charge of manslaughter came after she admitted the cruelty charges and psychiatrists agreed that she had been suffering from severe depression when Khyra died.

Before she pleaded guilty to child cruelty and was cleared of murder, her counsel, Michael Burrows QC, said psychiatrists had agreed that her condition impaired her ability to function effectively as a mother.

Abuhamza's plea of guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to murder was accepted earlier this month.

Martin Lindop of the Crown Prosecution Service said the manslaughter pleas were accepted as a result of psychiatric reports.

Khyra's father 'tried to get help'

"As a result of the content of a number of psychiatric reports, which we received at a very late stage in the case, we concluded the charge of murder in relation to Khyra Ishaq could no longer be sustained," he said.

Abuhamza had told the court he was brutally abused as a child and witnessed his father beating his younger sister to death when he was five years old.

After the case, Khyra's natural father Ishaq Abuzaire said: "I think manslaughter was the right decision and the right outcome."

Gordon and Abuhamza will be sentenced on Friday next week.

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