Antiques dealer ‘took 20 minutes to strangle daughter’

Robert Peters, 56, throttled Sophia (pictured) as she lay in bed at their £1million home in Raynes Park, south west London

An antiques dealer strangled his seven-year-old daughter with a dressing gown cord as part of a plan to kill his family to spare them the ‘pain and upset’ of bankruptcy, a court heard.

Robert Peters, 56, had ended a two-and-a-half-year affair and was worrying about his finances before the attack on his daughter Sophia, jurors heard.

He waited until his wife had gone out before he woke Sophia up in bed by tying a cord around her neck and throttling her for up to half an hour.

Afterwards, he called 999 and told police to come to his home in Wimbledon, south west London, saying: ‘There been a murder.’

He said a child had been killed, and when asked who had done it, replied: ‘I have.’

Officers arrived at his Blenheim Road home minutes later and Peters calmly told them: ‘She’s upstairs. I’ve strangled her.

‘My daughter, she’s upstairs in her bedroom.’

Sophia was found lying in a foetal position on a single bed wearing a nightie and knickers with a black fleece dressing gown cord wrapped and knotted tightly round her neck.

She had a weak pulse and was rushed to hospital, joined soon after by her mother Krittiya, who was escorted there by police.

Sophia was treated in intensive care but died the next day, on November 4 last year.

Following his arrest, Peters said he had been suffering a ‘breakdown’.

He told a mental health nurse he had tried to kill himself twice in 2017 but denied being an ‘aggressive person’.

He had been thinking of killing his wife and family for several weeks so they could be ‘spared the pain and upset when he became bankrupt’.

Peters, whose oriental antiques business was based in Kensington, said he expected to go bust in a couple of months and they would lose everything including their home.

The defendant added that the family had been visited by a child protection team and he feared Sophia would be taken into care.

Peters (pictured) called police himself, and PCs Claire Johns and David Pilkington arrived at his address to find the cord tightly wrapped around the girl's neck at least twice

Peters (pictured) called police himself, and PCs Claire Johns and David Pilkington arrived at his address to find the cord tightly wrapped around the girl’s neck at least twice

In police interview, he said Sophia had woken up just as he put the cord around her neck and asked: ‘What are you doing?’

He said she had struggled a little bit as he strangled her for about 20 minutes.

He told officers it had been his last opportunity to kill his daughter as she was due to go back to boarding school after the half-term break.

Peters said he had been having an affair for the last two and a half years, moved out of the family home, then returned having ended it.

Authorities thought there was no risk to Sophia in visits before death

Social services concluded there was no risk to Sophia when they visited the family home months before, a jury heard.

The local Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub team had visited Peters months before he throttled his daughter, the Old Bailey heard.

Mukul Chawla QC, prosecuting, said: ‘Following the defendant’s attempt to take his own life in August 2017, that team was asked to make an assessment. And contact was made with the defendant at his home.

‘When they made contact he had just been released the day, the 14th of September, following a further attempt to take his own life.’ 

The prosecutor said: ‘She described Sophia as very happy, open friendly and polite. And she had no concerns for Sophia’s welfare.’ 

Mr Chuwla said: ‘Ms Sangster concluded that the case could be closed and there were no safeguarding issues.

‘And the case was closed on the 27th of September 2017 and Ms Sangster telephoned Mr Peters to tell him after.

‘Mr Peters expressed his satisfaction with that outcome and told her they were selling the house to take away financial pressure.’

But he told officers the real pressure stemmed from going bankrupt.

The defendant said it was hard to know why he had taken it out on his daughter.

He felt he had not been a good father or loved his offspring as well as he should have, jurors heard.

The court was told that a preliminary examination of Peters’ finances revealed he he was not in debt.

There were no mortgage arrears or defaults of his accounts and there was money in the bank.

Sophia Peters

Sophia's mother Krittiya Peters came arrived back at their home shortly after and taken to hospital to join her daughter

Sophia’s mother Krittiya Peters (right) came arrived back at their home shortly after and taken to hospital to join her daughter (left)

On being charged with murder, Peters said: ‘I’m guilty of the offence.’

A post-mortem examination found Sophia, who had a hole in the heart as a baby, suffered fatal brain damage.

Prosecutor Mukul Chawla QC said: ‘There is no dispute that the defendant killed Sophia.

‘The prosecution case is that that killing amounted to murder.

Peters claims to have been hearing voices, leading to the killing of Sophia (pictured)

‘On the part of Mr Peters, it is suggested that the killing was not murder but manslaughter.’

Mr Chawla said the jury would have to consider Peters’ mental state and whether it was a ‘significant contributory factor’.

It was not disputed that he suffered a depressive illness of ‘moderate severity’, the Old Bailey heard.

But the prosecutor said: ‘Simply suffering from such a condition is not enough to enable a killing to be reduced from murder to manslaughter.’

Peters has admitted manslaughter but denies murder.

In the months before the killing, Peters searched the internet for ‘serial killers’, ‘treatment of child killers in prison’ and ‘premeditated murder’, the court heard.

In between, the defendant also trawled the internet for the lottery and The Great British Bake Off.

Jurors were told that a child welfare assessment in the wake of Peters’ August suicide attempt had concluded he was not a risk to himself and others.

The case was closed on September 27, just over a month before Sophia was killed.

Peters has since claimed he was hearing voices at the time, but a psychiatrist for the prosecution has dismissed it as a device to justify his actions afterwards, the jury were told.

Sophia’s mother, Peters’ third wife, sat in the court as the case was opened.

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