The family of a woman who was found bludgeoned to death on her birthday have paid tribute to their ‘sweet loving daughter’.
Christina Abbotts, 29, was discovered lying dead in her flat after after she failed to turn up at her birthday celebrations and concerned friends raised the alarm.
Police rushed to the flat in the Gossops Green area of Crawley in West Sussex and found her body on Friday night.
Her family said: ‘Christina, our sweet loving daughter and best friend, educated at Cirencester and Oxford, will be sorely missed. This independent lady, a much travelled person was taken from us far too early.
‘Her friends in London and parts of the UK will also be grieving.
‘The light in our life is now extinguished. Love forever from our family.’
Christina Abbotts, 29, was discovered lying dead in her flat after after she failed to turn up at her own birthday celebrations and concerned friends raised the alarm
Her family have paid tribute to their ‘sweet loving daughter’ who was found dead in her flat in the Gossops Green area of Crawley in West Sussex on Friday night
Today Zahid Naseem, 47, of Amersham, Buckinghamshire, appeared in front of Brighton Magistrates Court charged with murder.
Dressed in grey jogging bottoms and top he spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and his address.
Neighbours and friends of Naseem have spoken of their shock at his arrest.
The marketing specialist lives with his long-term partner Helen in a £600,000 semi detached house in a private road a short distance from Amersham town centre in Buckinghamshire.
One neighbour said: ‘I am really just too shocked to say anything about him. He is our neighbour and a lovely man.’
Another said: ‘I just can’t believe it. He is not that sort of person to be mixed up in anything like murder. Are they sure they have got the right person?
‘He is such a lovely man and always very friendly and says hello when you meet in the road. This just does not seem right.’
Naseem has lived in the private road, set in a conservation area in the Buckinghamshire village, for at least five years. He is not believed to have any children but has been with his partner for several years.
It is understood Miss Abbotts died as a result of head injuries sustained from a ‘blunt’ object.
Neighbours have described how police ‘flooded’ into the area after her father came searching for her.
Deliveroo driver Aaron Harvey, 24, who lives in a nearby block of flats, claimed he witnessed the sequence of events unfold as he smoked a cigarette out of his window after a night shift.
He said: ‘This man came over, saying he had been looking for his blonde 28-year-old daughter and had I seen her.
‘He said it was her birthday and she had booked a hotel in London to celebrate with friends but never turned up.’
Her family said: ‘Christina, our sweet loving daughter and best friend, educated at Cirencester and Oxford, will be sorely missed. This independent lady, a much travelled person was taken from us far too early’
According to Mr Harvey, the man – who said he was Mauritian – had been looking for his daughter for about an hour but had no response when he knocked on the door of the flat or any others nearby.
‘I felt sorry for him, he was panicking. I said I had seen a blonde girl who didn’t live here quite a bit recently but I didn’t know her. I hadn’t seen her that day,’ he said.
‘I told him if I saw anything I would let him know and that I hoped he found her. I really hope the police find out what happened to her.’
He said his five-year-old son was kept awake all night worrying about the commotion outside, adding: ‘The man was making phone calls and then the police turned up.
‘First there was one car, then suddenly loads more flooded into the street, and vans and paramedics.
‘They had bright lights on for a long time. Police and ambulances are here all the time, but this was a lot more than usual. We haven’t slept.’
Miss Abbotts was found dead after her father arrived in the road looking for her after she failed to attend her birthday party at a London hotel
Detective Chief Inspector Emma Heater, from the Surrey and Sussex major crime team, urged anyone with information to contact police quoting Operation Grayhill.
Crawley Borough Council and Sussex Police have been contacted for comment.
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The police and an ambulance arrived in the street at about 10.30pm last night and we knew straight away that something bad had happened.
‘This is quite a nice area of Crawley and we are all a bit shocked to discover there has been a murder in the road. I don’t know the young girl involved but it is very tragic that she has lost her life.’
A spokesman for Sussex Police said that detectives had launched Operation Grayhill to investigate the murder and appealed for anyone with information that might be useful to the inquiry to contact officers.
‘An investigation has been launched after a woman was found dead in Crawley,’ said the spokesman.
A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Pictured is an officer leaving the property
‘Police were called at 10.30pm on Friday by a woman’s friends concerned that she hadn’t turned up to pre-arranged plans.
‘Officers attended an address in Highams Hill and found a woman, aged in her 20s, dead in a bed. A 47-year-old man was also found in the property with some minor injuries.
‘He was checked over by an ambulance crew before being arrested on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody at this stage.’
Detective Chief Inspector Emma Heater said: ‘We are supporting Christina’s family, who aren’t local to Crawley, at this very distressing time. They have asked for privacy while they start to grieve.
‘We are investigating the circumstances of her death and are keen to hear from anyone who might have seen or heard anything which might help with our investigation.
‘Please speak to us in confidence with any information, however small.’
Naseem will appear before Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday May 30.
Anyone with information should contact police quoting Operation Grayhill.
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