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17 December 2015, 15:51
The sister-in-law of a teenage girl who was beaten to death in the family home collapsed in the dock when a jury convicted her of murder.
Shahena Uddin, 19, was subjected to a 'regime of fear' at the hands of Salma Begum in which she suffered strange and brutal punishments and was physically and verbally abused.
Ambulance staff called to the house in Leavesden Road, Watford on October 11 last year found her lifeless body in the bathroom.
The paramedics were told she had felt sick and fainted, but St Albans Crown Court heard Shahena had been beaten with weapons in the course of the previous 24 hours, suffering head wounds and injuries and bruises to her body.
During a two month trial, the jury heard Shahena, who was one of eight siblings in a Bangladeshi family, was sometimes struck with a plastic baseball bat, Wii bat, a mop handle, spirit level and a glow stick.
Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said her "offences" were eating at the wrong speed or not eating her food. She would be made to lick the toilet seat and stand for long periods staring into the toilet bowl. She was told to eat her own faeces and vomit and pieces of paper.
Shahena, who was just 4 feet 11 tall but weighed 13 stone, wasn't allowed to use the lavatory and, on occasions, she was forced to use a sink, getting into even more trouble.
Her oldest brother Suhail Uddin, 35, and his wife Salma Begum, 32, denied murder. The jury cleared him of murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter and found her guilty of murder.
Suhail Uddin and three other brothers, Jewell, 27, Jhuhal, 33 and Tohel Uddin, 24, along with Shahena's older sister Rehena Uddin, 22, denied causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. They were all found guilty by the jury.
All six pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice by attempting to impede the police investigation and were all found guilty.
At the end of the prosecution case, Mr Justice Spencer ruled that Laila Begum, 25, who is the wife of Jhuhal Uddin, had no case to answer on charges of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Mr Trimmer said after Shahena's death, her family mounted a cover up operation.
Blood and vomit stains had been concealed and bloodstained clothing belonging to Shahena had been placed in bin bags and put outside.
He said: "She probably endured several beatings that night, some in the dining area, some in her own bedroom."
Both sides of Shahena's head had been beaten and he added. "There were severe targeted beatings in particular to her breasts, probably with fists and weapons," he said.
Pathologist Dr Robert Chapman said her eyes were black and swollen and her temple, both sides and the back of her head, were covered in bruising. He said her lips were cut.
Dr Chapman said he found bruising to her shoulders and it appeared a "rod like" object with parallel sides has been used to strike her.
Strike marks were also found across her right breast, indicating that it had been "targeted."
In addition he said he found bruise marks to her hands, fingers and forearms, which indicated she had tried to defend herself from blows.
There were bruise marks he said across her legs, which again he said appeared to have been caused by a rod like implement with parallel sides.
He concluded she had choked on her own vomit.
Next-door-neighbour Michelle Crawford said that on the night of the murder she was woken by a loud thudding noise. "It sounded like they were tenderising meat," she told the jury of six men and six women.
The court heart that in 2010 Shahena's older brother Suhail and his wife Salma became the legal guardians of her and two other sisters because the parents were no longer around.
Suhail Uddin and his wife Salma, along with Jewell Uddin, Rehena Uddin, Shahena and another younger sister all lived at the address in Leavesden Road in Watford. Salma told that she had an arranged marriages to her husband, who was her first cousin, in Bangladesh. She told the jury she had begun a relationship with her brother-in-law Jewell.
Tohel Uddin, his brother Jhuhal and his wife Laila all lived a short distance away at address in Middle Ope, Watford.
Mr Trimmer said Shahena spoke to school friends about what was happening to her. When they tried to complain on her behalf, she was obliged, for fear of worse to come, to deny what she had said.
One friend, Martha Omar, said Shahena was a very caring girl who was always happy to be in school. "Every time it was time to go home, her mood dropped. She said she was not allowed to socialise out of school. She said she was made to do every chore in the house and was forced to eat food. She said she was given a big plate of food and was expected to finish it all. She said if she finished eating, she would run to the toilet and try to make herself sick," she said.
Her younger sister Sabina Uddin, now 18, told the jury how her sister was forced to use the kitchen sink as a lavatory.
Sabina said she could recall one occasion when her sister had used the kitchen sink and as she tried to clamber back down to the floor her trousers had become caught on a drawer below the sink.
The sister said when it was discovered what Shahena had done, she (Sabina) was ordered by older members in the family to eat the excrement.
She said she refused she was hit across her face and was sent to her room.
In a letter Shahena had written to Salma Begum, who she referred to as Afa, she wrote: "I'm begging you to please help me. I feel like I have no-one. Afa please.........please Afa I have no life anymore without you..no-one cares. It hurts when you call me a cow and a rat-dog... I am suffering. I have no-one to tell so please can you help me. Afa I will put my head in the toilet for you just to forgive me. Please Afa I really need you."
The judge allowed dock officers to carry Salma Begum from the dock after she collapsed to the floor.
He adjourned sentence until Monday, but he told the jury Salma Begum would receive a mandatory life sentence and he would have to decide the minimum term she should serve.