Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Who is the man who killed Khyra?

by Peter Wilson
Home Affairs Correspondent, BBC Midlands Today

Junaid Abuhamza
Junaid Abuhamza suffers from schizophrenia

Khyra Ishaq's stepfather Junaid Abuhamza and mother Angela Gordon have pleaded guilty to the seven-year-old's manslaughter.

Khyra died in hospital after starving to death at her home in Handsworth, Birmingham.

But who is the man who killed her?

Junaid Abuhamza is 31 years old and was born in Birmingham as Samuel Williams.

The court heard that as a child he was sexually abused and beaten.

He suffers from schizophrenia and saw both the house and Khyra as being possessed by an evil spirit.

To add to this misery he witnessed his father killing his four-year-old sister.

Psychiatrists have a phrase for someone burdened by such horrors, calling it "multiple jeopardy".

Where there's a person with schizophrenia who also misuses drugs then the risk of harming others is markedly elevated
Professor Femi Oyebode

Professor Femi Oyebode is Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Birmingham.

He was not an expert witness in this case but said that food would have had a deeply symbolic role.

Inside Khyra's home everything that should have been normal was turned on its head.

"Withdrawal of food can easily be used as punishment because it has all this symbolic meaning," Prof Oyebode said.

"It's pleasurable, it's used to reward people, it's usually a social event, you can see why it's a powerful re-enforcer.

Khyra Ishaq
Khyra Ishaq died in May 2008

"And the withdrawal of it can be a powerful means and measure of punishment."

To add to this evil cocktail Abuhamza has also been a heavy cannabis user.

Some experts believe drugs, combined with schizophrenia, increase the risk factor of sufferers harming others by up to thirty times.

Prof Oyebode said: "Where there's a person with schizophrenia who also misuses drugs then the risk of harming others is markedly elevated."

He said he was surprised that Abuhamza was neither being monitored by mental health teams or on medication.

Ninety languages

But if the multi-agency system failed, what about the community in Handsworth?

Social services say that up to 90 different languages are spoken in inner-city Birmingham.

Many people are reluctant to inform the authorities.

Up to 70 witnesses had concerns about the children inside 36 Leyton Rd, Handsworth, but no-one phoned.

"But this is not a bad area, people do care for each other," one neighbour, Melissa Ware said.

"We don't know what goes on behind closed doors things you see on the outside are not what they are on the inside are they."

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