Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Birmingham girl 'starved quite deliberately'

Khyra Ishaq
Khyra Ishaq died in May 2008

A girl died after being starved by her mother and stepfather during months of "calculated cruelty", a court heard.

Seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq died on 17 May 2008 after being taken to hospital from the defendants' home in Leyton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.

Her mother, Angela Gordon, 35, and Junaid Abuhamza, 31, deny murder.

Khyra succumbed to an infection after being starved "quite deliberately" while being kept prisoner in her own home, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

'Starved for months'

Opening the case against the couple, prosecutor Timothy Raggatt, QC, warned jurors that aspects of the case would upset and disturb them.

Mr Raggatt said Khyra was so emaciated at the time of her death on 17 May 2008 that her condition was outside the experience of medical professionals.

The QC told the court: "The infection that brought about Khyra's death was one that was caused, and wholly caused, as a result of one thing - for months, quite literally months, she had been starved, and starved quite deliberately."

Angela Gordon, formerly of Leyton Road, denies five counts of child cruelty alleged to have been committed between December 2007 and May 2008.

If a child ate too much then they would be hit with the cane that I showed you a picture of
Prosecutor Timothy Raggatt, QC

The jury, which was informed that the case is a retrial, has been told that Mr Abuhamza, also of Leyton Road, has pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty.

Jurors also heard that five other children, who were also in the defendants' care, were "similarly starved" and assaulted.

Two of the other children, none of whom can be identified, were found to be in a state of acute, severe and dangerous malnutrition when the matters came to light, Mr Raggatt said.

He added: "They were lucky they did not contract an infection - they too were starved to a point where their lives were plainly at risk."

The jury has been informed that the original trial of the defendants began last summer, but was halted after one juror fell ill and other issues arose with two further jurors.

'Punishment regime'

Submitting that both defendants had acted together, Mr Raggatt added: "What they did over a period of months was a series of things which directly led to her death.

"What they did was a continuous course of conduct that was cruelty of an extreme kind and had at its heart the deliberate starvation of this child.

"[This child] was to all intents and purposes, a prisoner in the home in which she was supposed to live and be protected."

Jurors were shown pictures from inside the terraced house in Leyton Road, including photographs of the "well-stocked" kitchen and a cane used as part of a "punishment regime".

Mr Raggatt said: "It isn't that this house was short of food, as you can see, there is lots of food in this household."

'Single bowl'

But the court heard that the kitchen was kept locked by a bolt "out of the reach of the children" so that they could not help themselves to food.

At mealtimes they were given a bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between them, the court heard.

Mr Raggatt said: "The essence of it was this, what they got was a single bowl of food to share between the six of them.

"They didn't get the means to eat it separately. They didn't get separate meals.

"They were given a bowl of food and they, as it were, got what they could from the bowl of food.

"If a child ate too much then they would be hit with the cane that I showed you a picture of."

The prosecutor said the children were subjected to "a regime of punishment that most would find wholly inappropriate and unacceptable in any kind of household, never mind a civilised one."

The case, which is expected to last for up to five weeks, was adjourned to Wednesday morning.

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