Lesbians face jail for killing girl
A woman and her lesbian lover are facing years behind bars for torturing, abusing and finally killing her eight-year-old daughter while in the grip of a "sophisticated web of lies and deceit" on Facebook and in text messages.
Polly Chowdhury, 35, and Kiki Muddar, 43, were on trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Chowdhury's daughter, Ayesha Ali, at their home in Chadwell Heath, east London, in August 2013.
The jury deliberated for more than 31 hours before clearing them of murder but finding them guilty of manslaughter by a majority of 10-2.
Both women held their heads in their hands as the verdicts were delivered, while Ayesha's father, Afsar Ali, looked tearful in court.
Afterwards, he said he could not forgive his ex-wife for falling under the spell of Muddar after she created a set of fictional characters to seduce Chowdhury and turn her against her own daughter.
Mr Ali, who described Ayesha as his "sunshine" and "closest friend", said: "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."
The trial had heard that on the morning of August 29 2013, Muddar dialled 999 to report that 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 had suffered more than 40 injuries, including a bite mark and carpet burns.
Chowdhury had left a series of notes, appearing to admit to 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 in text messages which Muddar had created to control and seduce Chowdhury, encouraging her to discipline her daughter because she saw her as a threat.
Muddar befriended Chowdhury when they lived next door to each other and she got sympathy by pretending to be fighting cancer.
Chowdhury's husband 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, of which she kept copies, 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 "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 the little girl 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."
They also made her write a list of things she had done wrong, which included "huffing and puffing", "telling lies" and "being rude".
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 have been at her parents' house on the night Ayesha died, although a pathologist said the child 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.
Judge Christopher Moss QC remanded the women in custody to be sentenced on Friday morning.
Speaking outside court, Detective Sergeant Andy Nimmo said: "Ayesha Ali was an innocent and defenceless eight-year-old child caught up in a bizarre set of circumstances and manipulated by two adults who were intent on causing her harm.
"Through social media and text, Muddar created a sophisticated web of lies and deceit which took officers months to unpick. What unravelled was a picture of enormous hatred directed towards Ayesha by both Muddar and Chowdhury.
"Ayesha should have been able to turn to one person who she could trust - her mother - but Chowdhury had allowed herself to become influenced by Muddar and together they inflicted serious emotional and finally physical harm on Ayesha.
"What the motive behind the campaign of abuse was remains unclear. What is painfully clear, however, is that Ayesha had her life taken away in horrible and brutal circumstances."
DS Nimmo went on to read a statement on behalf of a tearful Mr Ali, 35, saying: "Over the last few weeks I sat in the courtroom as the truth unfolded.
"It was not the truth about my princess Ayesha, it was the truth about what they did to my little girl, how they tortured her and took away her life.
"Ayesha was an amazing little girl - loving, caring, intelligent and always smiling. She was helpful and considerate to everyone she met. She was a gift of love. I knew that the very moment she came into my world. Nothing will bring Ayesha back.
"All I have now is happy memories of the past, the joyful moments we have had together. She filled my world with beauty and I'm going to hold on to that for as long as I live. She was my sunshine, my closest friend."