City banker texted partner 'life isn't going to work for me' after bludgeoning high-class escort to death, court hears

Detectives believe Christina Abbotts, who was found dead on her 29th birthday, was hit on the head with a pestle 13 times

Chiara Giordano
Thursday 13 December 2018 11:50
City banker Zahid Naseem, accused of murdering escort Christina Abbotts, heads into court

A City banker texted his partner “I’m sorry” after he allegedly bludgeoned a high-class escort to death on her 29th birthday, a court heard.

Helen Jervis asked her partner of 12 years Zahid Naseem “What have you done” after he told her “It’s too late, I’m sorry, life isn’t going to work for me” on 25 May, Lewes Crown Court heard.

The body of Christina Abbotts was discovered by police the following morning in a flat where she was house-sitting in Crawley.

Naseem, 48, was found lying naked on a sofa pretending to be unconscious, prosecutor Christopher Tehrani told jurors.

Ms Abbotts, who was born in the West Midlands and lived in London, had been hit on the head with a pestle 13 times and is thought to have died about 12 hours earlier, jurors were told.

The pair were last seen together in the West Sussex town’s Asda supermarket buying alcohol on the night before she is thought to have died.

Jurors were shown CCTV images of Naseem kissing Ms Abbotts on the head while they stood in one of the aisles.

As the banker’s murder trial continued, the court heard how the “privately-educated city girl” lived a secret life as a high-class escort but told her friends and family she worked in IT.

Naseem paid her up to £3,500 a time when they met and “the social media addict” led a lavish lifestyle partying with “posh”, wealthy friends living in Westminster and other parts of London while frequenting the theatre, polo and Ascot.

Still taken from CCTV dated 24 May, 2018, of murder victim Christina Abbotts and accused Zahid Naseem in Asda, Crawley, before she was killed. City banker Naseem denies murdering Ms Abbotts some time between 25 and 26 May this year.

Her father Michael Abbotts, who lives in Stourbridge, said he was “never fully aware” of what she did for a living but she had “very posh friends” and travelled a lot, visiting countries including Brazil and Mexico.

After school she studied business at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester and dropped out of a course to Oxford Brookes University when she was offered a job, he said.

He last heard from her when she texted him to say “love you” shortly after midnight on 25 May.

In a statement read to the court, he added: “She was a pretty woman. I’m sure she had more boyfriends than she told us about.”

Commercial airline pilot Howard Joseph said Ms Abbotts liked to party and was “very personable and a very enjoyable person to share time with”.

He said he knew she drank a lot and was aware she took cocaine, adding: “It’s a situation in London in that kind of social group, she had probably used it at times.”

Zahid Naseem arriving at Hove Crown Court. The City banker is accused of bludgeoning escort Christina Abbotts to death in May 2018. He denies murdering Ms Abbotts, who was found dead on her 29th birthday, some time between 25 and 26 May.

Jurors heard Ms Abbotts had been “hassled” online and in person by a “female stalker”.

Friends began to worry when she failed to turn up to her birthday party, fearing it may have been linked to her concerns about a stalker.

She had been due to meet close long-term friend Roshan Pariag at the Park Plaza County Hall hotel in London, where she was planning to stay, at 5pm but never arrived.

When Mr Pariag drove from London to her flat in Crawley to look for her he could see a “glow” from a computer screen in the flat but no one answered the door so he raised the alarm with police.

After police broke down the door and found her body, he said: “I could just tell by the look on their face something tragic had happened.”

Mr Pariag added: “She was always happy, she was always trying to look after friends. She was just a really, really lovely person. She was willing to give anybody a chance.”

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A fellow sex worker, who became good friends with Ms Abbotts when they met through escort work, last saw her around a week before she died when they visited a client together, she told police.

They exchanged messages on her birthday but she noticed after a while she stopped responding and became worried.

In a statement read to the court, she said: “She drank a lot and took cocaine most days. I think she was addicted. I don’t think she liked the thought of getting older.

“I thought she was quite reckless towards her work. I don’t think she carried out many checks on her clients.”

Naseem, who had been working for Toronto-Dominion Bank’s London office, denies murder, claiming the pair had a drug and drink-fuelled night together after which he woke to find her dead.

Paramedic Stewart Plumbley, who assessed Naseem at the flat, said he was awake because his eyes were flickering and his eyelashes moved when touched.

He added: “My belief was the patient was attempting to feign unconsciousness.”

The trial continues.

Press Association