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Couple jailed for starving child

The mother and stepfather of a seven-year-old girl who was starved to death were jailed for her manslaughter yesterday by a judge who called their treatment of the child "chilling in its harshness and cruelty".

Khyra Ishaq died in May 2008 when her emaciated body succumbed to an infection after months of starvation at her home in Leyton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. Mr Justice Roderick Evans sentenced her 35-year-old mother, Angela Gordon, to 15 years, with a minimum term of seven and a half years, and jailed her former partner, Junaid Abuhamza, 31, indefinitely for the public's protection.

The pair were cleared of Khyra's murder at Birmingham Crown Court last month. Both were also given concurrent sentences of four and five years for cruelty to five other children in their care, which they admitted. The judge told them: "It is not right to say these children suffered from neglect. Neglect is an inadequate and inappropriate description. Rather, they were subjected to a domestic regime of punishment which was chilling in its harshness and cruelty."

Abuhamza, who suffers from schizophrenia was told: "You now have some insight into your illness, but it is limited, and you are not compliant with your medication. The three psychiatrists who assessed you are of the view that you represent such a danger and urge me to deal with you under the dangerous offender provisions of the Act [Criminal Justice Act 2003]."

The judge told Gordon her cruelty was "horrific". She will serve half of her sentence in custody.

Khyra was removed from school in December 2007 and subjected to a punishment regime which included standing outside in the cold or in front of a fan for long periods, having cold water poured over her and being beaten with a bamboo cane.

She and the five other children were deprived of food and prevented from entering the couple's fully stocked kitchen. At mealtimes, they were given a bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, which they had to share.

The meagre meal would be given to the children on the floor. By the time of Khyra's death, she was so thin her body mass index could not be measured on any chart. Starvation left her immune system unable to resist infection. A serious case review has started into Khyra's death.