In August 2013, eight year old Ayesha Ali was found dead in her bedroom, having sustained more than 50 injuries. A post-mortem found that Ayesha died as a result of damage to her head, caused by a blow or series of blows, on 29th August 2013. Her body showed signs of prolonged abuse; carpet burns and even a bite mark.
Ayesha’s mother, Polly Chowdhury, 35, and her girfriend Kiki Muddar, 43, were convicted of manslaughter on 4 March 2015 by a majority of 10-2, by a jury sitting at the Old Bailey having been acquitted of murder. The jury retired to consider their verdict on 19 February, and spent over 31 hours deliberating.
The jury heard that Muddar was “disgusted” by Ayesha, who endured prolonged abuse as a result. She suffered more than 40 injuries, including a bite mark and carpet burns.
Muddar met Chowdhury when she moved next door to Ayesha’s family in 2007. Muddar befrended Chowdhury, and sought sympathy from her by pretending to have cancer.
Ayesha’s father, Afsar Ali, moved the family away from Muddar, but she tracked Chowdhury down, prompting the breakdown of her marriage.
Over time Muddar used Facebook updates and over 40,000 text messages to manipulate Chowdhury into believing that her daughter had evil spirits inside her and needed to be disciplined. One text read “You have no right to ever love or like your evil daughter”, describing her as “pure evil” and a witch. She even blamed Ayesha for making her fictional cancer worse and threatened to drown her in the bath.
A psychiatrist told the Court that Muddar had not been delusional in her actions, and fully understood what she was doing:
“She was rational in her judgements in having a disgust with Ayesha. She did not like Polly Chowdhury putting Ayesha above her interests,” he said.
“However immoral, abhorrent and illegal her judgment, it was rational… there is no question of either defendant having been mad.”
In Chowdhury’s evidence she admitted that the pair smaked Ayesha and his her with a wooden spoon, because “Skyman” an alias “spirit” created by Muddar, told them to in a text message.
On 6 March 2015 the pair were sentenced.
Chowdhury received 13 years’ imprisonment.
Muddier received 18 years’ imprisonment.
The judge said that Chowdhury had “disgracefully failed” in her fundamental position of trust to keep her daughter safe and that Muddar had purposely torn apart the family by constructing an “extraordinary web of deceit and lies”.
The judge commented that whilst it was clear that Muddar had struck the fatal blow, both had played their part in the abuse, which had involved the wearing of “vile masks”
Manslaughter is often a very difficult offence to determine the appropriate sentence. It spans a wide range of behaviour from the very serious to the barely criminal. This case however was a very bad case of child abuse; it is not surprising, given the evidence of manipulation of Chowdhury that Muddar received a higher sentence by some distance.
We will wait for the sentencing remarks to be published before passing further comment but sentences of 13 and 18 years – whilst in no way make up for the tragic loss of life – certainly mark the seriousness of the offence. As to whether it is too high or low, only the details of the extent of the torture will reveal that.