Belief in evil spirits 'exploited'

A mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old daughter told jurors how her lesbian neighbour exploited her belief in evil spirits to "engineer" their relationship through made-up characters on Facebook.

Polly Chowdhury, 35 and Kiki Muddar, 43, are jointly accused over the death of Ayesha Ali, who was found dead in her bedroom in August 2013 having suffered numerous injuries, including a bite mark and carpet burns.

The Old Bailey has heard that Muddar had invented a cast of fictitious characters on Facebook and in text messages, including "Jimmy" and Muslim spirit guide "Skyman", which she used to seduce Chowdhury and poison her mind against her daughter.

Polly Chowdhury and Kiki Muddar are jointly accused at the Old Bailey over the death of  Ayesha Ali

Polly Chowdhury and Kiki Muddar are jointly accused at the Old Bailey over the death of Ayesha Ali

Giving evidence in her defence, Chowdhury told the court she never once doubted that they were real at the time, and that she believed her dead grandfather was the spirit guide communicating via text.

Chowdhury told jurors: "I believe now that the way Kiki Muddar was sending these messages, she knew she was going to get a reaction from me.

"Now I can see that things were engineered in such a way she knew exactly how my responses would be, that I would do anything to make things better."

The court heard she was brought up a Muslim by Bangladeshi parents in Hampstead, north London, and as part of that she believed in "angels", "ghosts", "possession by spirits" and "black magic".

She confided her ideas to Muddar, as well as her feelings of "guilt" and "low self esteem" stemming from her troubled teenage years, which included a terminated pregnancy and an abusive arranged marriage.

The defendant also accepted that Muddar was "distraught" after finding out that she had cancer - even though that too turned out to be a fabrication.

Chowdhury said: "She was in bits. I was in tears because I felt that bad about her. She was devastated. She would say how much she hated to go through the cancer, how every day was wearing her out."

The court heard how Skyman told her to stay close to Muddar and "hug" her because it "helps the evil spirits go away" while advising her not to have sex with her "cheating" second husband Afsar Ali.

But Chowdhury insisted that while they were "soul mate friends" her relationship with Muddar was not sexual for her.

When she met Muddar she thought she was gay because of her "tomboy" demeanour, but she changed her mind after hearing she had a boyfriend called Dave - another made-up person.

Meanwhile, Jimmy wooed Chowdhury with sex texts, promising to treat her like a "princess" and encouraging her to send explicit sexual photographs of herself via Facebook.

She told the court she was left "terrified" after she received a message threatening her father would be told all the things she had done in her life.

Asked why she could not walk away from Muddar and Jimmy, she said: "Because if I did, then someone would die. Kiki would die, Jimmy would die, my parents would die, my family."

After she separated from her husband in December 2012, Chowdhury said she wanted to find a three-bedroom apartment in Chadwell Heath but Skyman told her to get a two-bedroom place instead.

Asked by her lawyer Ali Bajwa QC why she thought that was now, the witness said: "So that she (Muddar) could be in my room."

Chowdhury was also questioned about her ex-husband Mr Ali's evidence that she had appeared to be "possessed" around the time of Ayesha's death.

She replied: "I don't blame him for answering like that because everything was so crazy, my behaviour was so strange."

Muddar, of Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, and Chowdhury, of Broomfield Road, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Essex, deny murder, manslaughter and causing or allowing the death of a child between March 1 and August 29 2013.

Chowdhury was later quizzed about whether there was anything sexual in her physical relationship with Muddar.

The defendant said that after Muddar moved in to her bed, she would spend all night "touching" her body, but it was only to "heal" her.

She told jurors that the older woman had moved in because it was what Skyman wanted as while they lived apart "I would not be able to heal her and she would not be able to get rid of any of the evil spirits from me".

She went on: "When I stay with my sisters we always share the same bed and she was like my sister and I didn't feel any different about it. It was not anything sexual related in any way whatsoever.

"By then the pain was pretty much every day and it would take all night just to get rid of the pain."

Mr Bajwa asked: "What would you be doing to get rid of the pain?"

Chowdhury replied: "She would say the pain was in her ribs so I would have to touch her ribs."

The lawyer said: "Did that help her?"

She replied: "Yes it did. Then as time went on she said it was getting worse from her ribs to her heart."

Mr Bajwa asked: "Did you touch that area around her heart?"

The witness said: "Yes. It seemed to help her."

The defence lawyer went on to read out messages from Skyman criticising her child, prompting her to burst into tears and ask for a break.

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