Zahid Naseem arrives at Lewes Crown Court today where he is standing trial for the murder of Christina Abbotts
An IT worker who led a secret life as a ‘high-class escort’ was bludgeoned to death by a city banker, a court heard today.
Christina Abbotts, 29, was repeatedly beaten around the head with a kitchen pestle in a ‘savage and brutal’ attack in a flat.
City of London banker Zahid Naseem, 47, a father-of-two, then allegedly strangled her before leaving her to die in a pool of her own blood.
The court heard she was due to meet up with some friends in London that evening to celebrate her 29th birthday at a pre-arranged party.
When she failed to turn up they became increasingly concerned and tried to contact her by phone and text message.
When police broke down the door of the flat on May 26, 47-year-old Naseem pretended to be unconscious, jurors were told by prosecutor Christopher Tehrani.
Police found drugs such as cocaine and the sex drug amyl nitrate in the property, as well as a blood-stained bottle of Courvoisier brandy.
Today, Naseem, a freelance financial consultant for a Canadian bank in the City of London, went on trial charged with murdering Miss Abbotts.
Naseem has pleaded not guilty to murder.
Lewes Crown Court was told Miss Abbotts led a busy social life and had many friends, but she also led a secret life as a sex worker and escort.
Using the pseudonym Tilly Pexton, she advertised her sexual services online and clients could make contact with her through the website.
Mr Tehrani, prosecuting, said: ‘Unknown to many of her friends and family she worked as a sex worker, in some circles she would be known as a high class escort. She advertised her services on the internet.’
The court heard Naseem and Miss Abbotts had met for sex on previous occasions after the banker had contacted her through an adult website.
Naseem, who lived with his estranged partner and children in Amersham, Bucks, and Miss Abbotts were spotted on supermarket CCTV buying alcohol.
They then went to the two-bedroom top-floor flat Miss Abbotts was house-sitting for a friend in Crawley, where they had sex.
Mr Tehrani said: ‘They then engaged in sexual activity, drinking alcohol and drug consumption. During the course of that night they did not engage in any penetrative sexual activity.’
Christina Abbotts (pictured) was found dead in her flat after after she failed to turn up at celebrations in London to mark her 29th birthday
He said Miss Abbotts last engaged in sexual activity at around midday the following day – her birthday.
The court heard she was due to meet up with some friends in London that evening to celebrate her birthday at a pre-arranged party.
When she failed to turn up they became increasingly concerned and tried to contact her by phone andtext message.
That night a friend decided to drive down from London and when he couldn’t get a response from the flat he went to police who forced entry at around 2.30am on May 26 and found Miss Abbotts.
The court heard she was lying naked on the bed in a pool of her own blood and was cold to the touch, yellow in colour and showing signed of rigor mortis.
They also found a black pestle which belonged with a mortar in the kitchen.
Naseem was found lying on the couch in the living room and, though he appeared only semi-conscious, medics who later examined him were sceptical and thought his condition was feigned.
Christina Abbotts, 29, (pictured) was repeatedly beaten around the head with a kitchen pestle in a ‘savage and brutal’ attack in a flat
They also found minor self-harm marks to his wrists. Mr Tehrani said there was evidence of drug use in the flat and cocaine was found on a book and a bottle of the sex drug amyl nitrate – also known as poppers – were found in the flat.
Police also found a blood-stained bottle of Courvoisier brandy. They also found a video on his iPhone which he had sent to another sex worker he knew called Lily Rose which showed him committing a sexual act on himself.
A post mortem later found Miss Abbotts had suffered at least 13 blows to the head with a blunt weapon, which the prosecution claim was the kitchen pestle, as well as compression injuries to her neck, suggesting an attempt had been made to strangle her.
The freelance financial consultant, who worked for the Toronto Dominion Bank, was taken to hospital before being declared fit for police interview and questioned and later charged with the murder.
Mr Tehrani told the court the door of the top-floor flat was locked from the inside as were all the windows. He added: ‘Only someone with the powers of Spiderman would have been able to access this flat from the outside.’
Mr Tehrani told the jury: ‘The prosecution say the assault Christina Abbotts suffered was brutal, savage, unnecessary and pointless.’
The court heard Miss Abbotts was ‘privately-educated’ and ‘posh’ and paid rent to the owner of the flat with her sex work.
In a series of police interviews Naseem, who typically earned up to £250,000 a year, told officers he had been attracted to Miss Abbotts because she was privately-educated and was a City girl and seemed ‘more like a socialite than a sex worker’.
He sent a former colleague Miss Abbotts’ Facebook profile who responded saying: ‘Another hooker?’
To which Naseem allegedly replied: ‘How dare you. She’s incredibly posh.’
Naseem told police the pair had met on six occasions and he would pay her around £2,000 each time and he had paid her £3,500 for the previous two hook-ups.
The court was told the pair got a taxi to Crawley and bought alcohol from a supermarket before going to the flat where Miss Abbotts had ordered cocaine and it had been delivered to the property a short time later.
Christina Abbotts, 29, was found dead in a bed in Crawley after friends raised the alarm when she failed to turn up for her own birthday party in London
He told police he had used sex workers for around 10 years and often took cocaine during the hook-ups. He said he had occasionally suffered blackouts when he used drugs and alcohol together.
He told police he and Miss Abbotts had shared a bath together and there was sexual activity though no penetrative sex.
He said he had no memory of arguing with Miss Abbotts and no memory of hitting her but woke up on the sofa in the living room and walked into the bedroom only to discover her dead on the bed.
Naseem told police he was ‘shell-shocked’ and went back into the living room where he drank vodka. He told officers: ‘Something must have happened. There was me and there was her and then there wasn’t her. Did I hit her? I don’t remember hitting her, no.
‘Did we fight, no we didn’t fight. I’m not some hyper high-functioning psychopath creating a story for you a-la Silence of the Lambs. I’m just telling you what happened or what didn’t happen. I can’t tell you more than that.’
Lewes Crown Court (pictured) was told Christina Abbotts led a busy social life and had many friends but she also led a secret life as a sex worker and escort
In another police interview he said: ‘It’s just not me. It’s not me. I keep telling you but you just don’t get that.’
The court was read a series of text messages between Naseem and other sex workers including Lily Roe and Leyla Noir.
In one message to a colleague he wrote of Miss Abbotts: ‘Luckily I appear to protect her from harm and the sick perverts out there and don’t want to break her.’
The court heard that in the past Naseem had attended sex clubs in London such as ‘Killing Kittens’ , ‘Heaven’s Circle’ and ‘The Vault’ though didn’t frequent them anymore.
The trial continues.
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