City banker jailed for bludgeoning female escort to death with pestle

Left to right: Zahid Naseem (48) and Christina Abbotts (29).

A wealthy city banker has been jailed for at least 19 years for bludgeoning an escort to death with a pestle on her birthday.

Zahid Naseem, 48, struck Christina Abbotts 13 times on the back of the head with the ceramic utensil in May.

The financial consultant claimed he hit her in self-defence, fearing he was being strangled to death in a sex game gone wrong.

But a jury at Lewes Crown Court found him guilty of murder after four hours of deliberations.

Abbotts, originally from the West Midlands, was described in court as a “socialite” who led a party lifestyle in London.

Her family believed she worked in IT but she had secretly advertised her sex services on the website under the pseudonym ‘Tilly Pexton’.

Naseem was working for Toronto-Dominion bank’s London office when he found Abbotts profile offering an overnight service for £1,000.

The pair were last seen in public on the evening of 24 May when Naseem met her in Crawley, West Sussex, before they spent the night together.

CCTV showed them standing in an Asda supermarket aisle kissing as they bought champagne.

Concerned friends started searching for her when Abbotts failed to turn up to her 29th birthday party in South Kensington the next day.

Police found her body when they broke down the door of a flat in Crawley in the early hours of 26 May. They also found Naseem pretending to be unconscious in the next room.

The wealthy risk management consultant initially claimed he could not remember the incident when police interviewed him.

When he gave evidence in court, he admitted striking Abbotts but said it was in self-defence. He also said a “red mist” may have come over him, but the prosecutor, Christopher Tehrani, dismissed his testimony as a “pack of lies”

The judge, Christine Laing, described Naseem’s attack on Abbotts as “extraordinary ferocity”.

She said: “When I consider the extent of all the injuries, you inflicted considerable pain.

“The terror of her final few moments of life is unimaginable.”

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