Zahid Naseem faces a life sentence for murdering escort Christina Abbotts in a champagne and cocaine-fuelled attack
The family of woman who was battered to death by a City banker who paid her for sex have told of the devastating toll of her murder as her killer was finally convicted today.
Zahid Naseem struck Christina Abbotts 13 times on the back of the head with a pestle in a champagne and cocaine-fuelled attack at a flat in Crawley, West Sussex, in May.
Miss Abbotts, who led a double life as an escort, was found dead on her 29th birthday.
Her family, who were unaware of her secret lifestyle, today told how they had to plan her funeral at a time they were hoping to go away on holiday together.
In a joint statement, they said: ‘We have our family tradition of going on holiday every year, we visited Tenerife and Lapland last year.
‘Christina said in April, “Hey Mommy, why don’t we go to Southern France this year for our family get away?” Instead of planning the holiday, we had to plan and go to her funeral.’
Ms Abbotts (left) led a secret life as a high-class escort before she was attacked and killed by City financier Naseem (right) during a night of sex and drugs in Sussex
Her family told of their devastation today as they said they finally had some closure
Naseem had admitted inflicting the injuries but told Lewes Crown Court he acted in self-defence. His defence was rejected today as the jury returned guilty verdicts.
Prosecutors believe Naseem unleashed the attack because he was angry Christina was not giving him enough attention while she looked at birthday messages on her phone.
Christina’s family’s added: ‘We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic event that happened to our most beautiful and loving daughter.
‘This has had a tremendous impact on our personal and professional lives as we have not been able to meet commitments due to the level of stress and shock we have been experiencing.
‘She was beautiful inside and out, and also very kind to others, putting everyone else’s need first.
‘We are looking forward to the new year to have closure for our family and Christina’s friends.’
Naseem met Christina through an adult website and messaged a banking colleague to say he had been seeing an amazing new woman.
He sent the colleague a screenshot of Christina’s Facebook profile to which he replied: ‘Another hooker?’
Naseem struck Ms Abbotts 13 times on the head with this pestle after a night together
Naseem replied ‘How dare you! She’s incredibly posh.’ He later told police Christina was less like an escort and more like a ‘socialite’ or ‘debutante’.
The pair first met at a London restaurant and then went to the Plaza Hotel in Knightsbridge for a night of sex, cocaine and alcohol.
They met a couple more times and Christina was paid around £2,000 for the liaisons.
The court heard Miss Abbotts was preparing to celebrate her 29th birthday with a large gathering of friends and had booked the four-star Park Plaza Hotel at County Hall, London for evening of Friday May 25.
However on the evening before the party she was contacted again by Naseem who was keen to see her.
As she was in Crawley, house sitting for a friend, he took a taxi from his home in Amersham to the flat, a distance of almost 70 miles.
This is the moment police stormed a flat to find Ms Abbotts dead and Naseem feigning unconsciousness in his dressing gown on the sofa (pictured)
After meeting at the flat, the pair went to Asda in Crawley where they spotted on CCTV buying bottles of champagne before phoning a drugs contact to arrange the delivery of a large amount of cocaine. The pair then indulged in a night of sex and drugs.
The following morning – Christina’s birthday – she received texts from friends and family wishing her a happy birthday. She replied and made plans with friends to meet them later for the party in London.
She and Naseem had sex in the morning but the court heard that around midday the banker attacked Christina in the bedroom.
Using a kitchen pestle, he bludgeoned her around the head at least 13 times and attempted to strangle her before leaving her to die on the bed in a pool of her own blood.
Just hours later he messaged his estranged partner, Helen Jervis, saying: ‘It’s too late. I’m sorry. Life isn’t going to work out for me.’
Grainy CCTV footage shows Naseem kissing Ms Abbotts before their night together
The pair were in Asda in Crawley buying alcohol before the attack. They then got cocaine
Naseem then recorded an explicit video of himself performing a sex act and sent it to another sex worker.
Naseem told the court he had lashed out at the 5’4′ Christina in self-defence after she began strangling him.
He said she had sat astride him and tried to throttle and claimed he only reacted as he did because he thought he might die.
He said: ‘A red mist may have descended over me. I think I may have lost my composure.’
But Christopher Tehrani QC, prosecuting, said his defence was a ‘a pack of lies’ and suggested Naseem had been ‘irritated’ by the number of birthday text messages she was receiving and the lack of attention she was showing him.
He said: ‘He had paid a lot of money that he really couldn’t afford for his night of fun.’
Police found the body of Miss Abbotts in a flat where she was housesitting in Crawley
Family’s shock that former university student who said she’d got a high-flying job in IT was actually working as a £2,000-a-night escort
Christina Abbotts lived a secret life as a high-class escort, but told her friends and family she worked in IT
Christina Abbotts’ family were left devastated when they learned about her death at the hands of killer Zahid Naseem.
But her murder has led to the uncovering of her secret life as an escort which not even her closest friends or relatives knew about.
Throughout the court case the family sat throughout the nine-day court case, aghast as the full details of their daughter’s double life were exposed.
To spare the family further distress the prosecution was allowed to read a statement from her father.
In it Michael Abbotts, a retired BT engineer, said ‘I’m not fully aware of what Christina did for a living.
‘At this time Christina was still living in London. She wanted to start living alone but could not afford to do so in London so moved to Crawley.
‘She was a pretty woman and probably had more boyfriends than she told us about. She had very posh friends and once took is to a restaurant at a tennis club which was very exclusive.’
Born in Stourbridge, West Midlands to Michael Abbotts, a BT engineer and his Finnish-born wife, Pirrko Hanna, Christina Abbotts had an unremarkable early upbringing.
She attended Ridgewood High School and Shrewsbury Sixth Former College before going on to study at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester and then Oxford Brookes University but dropped out in her first year.
Harbouring ambitions to become an estate agent, she moved to London and had a succession of jobs, including working as a nanny in Finland.
The socialite advertised her services under the name ‘Tilly Pexton’ on website AdultWork.com.
Last year Christina told her family she had found a good job working for an international commercial caterer which took her to destinations such as South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Miami.
During this time she also began to surround herself with a circle of ‘posh’ friends and lived a ‘party lifestyle’, dining at top £350-a-head restaurants, attending Royal Ascot and polo matches as well as expensive nightclubs.
After her job for the caterer apparently ended Christina told friends and family she secured a job as an IT consultant and led a hectic professional life.
However she was mysterious about the details of her work and never told friends, not even her on/off boyfriend Toby Wainwright, where or who she worked for.
Her body was found by police in the top-floor flat she had been house-sitting for friend Peter Nuttall in Crawley, West Sussex
Some friends began to get suspicious as Christina kept irregular hours, partying well into the night and disappearing with wealthy-looking businessmen.
Short of money, she left London for Crawley, moving into a top-floor flat owned by a friend who had left Britain to live in Thailand.
Christina told friends she was flat-sitting but in reality she was secretly working as high-class escort, advertising her services – including bondage and sado-masochism – online at adultwork.com.
Calling herself Tilly Pexton, she sought her clients among the wealthy bankers and businessmen in the City of London, charging around £2,000 a time.
As she became immersed in the sex industry she made contact with other escort girls including Leyla Noir, Lily Rose and another young woman who became increasingly worried about Christina’s spiralling drug use and drinking – saying she was a virtual cocaine addict.
Killer went from earning £250,000 a year in the City to an debt-ridden loner trawling sex clubs and hiring prostitutes with money he didn’t have
Zahid Naseem went from earning six figures in the City to a sex-obsessed loner
At the time Christina Abbotts met Zahid Naseem, the former City boy’s star was waning.
He had enjoyed a lucrative career, first working first for HSBC bank and then finance giant Merrill Lynch, before moving BNP Paribas, specialising in risk management.
But was sacked from a recent finance job at Aberdeen Asset management over claims he had run up debts of £20,000 on the company credit card and was freelancing as a consultant working for a small Canadian bank.
His home life was also in disarray. Although he and his long-time partner, Helen Jervis, 45, lived under the same roof in a £650,000 house in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, the pair were estranged.
This had led to Naseem seeking comfort elsewhere and he sought solace in ‘high-class call girls’ hiring them out for between £1,000-£2,000 a time for nights of sex, drugs and champagne drinking.
Often he didn’t make it home and instead stayed in hotels in London, partying the night away.
He would also attend sex clubs across the capital and had tried all that was on offer at Killing Kittens, The Vault and Heaven’s Circle, even taking home a bag of ‘male party-wear’ which Miss Jervis discovered.
Despite earning up to £250,000 a year, living a life of excess had left Naseem with debts of up to £100,000 and the court heard he had been ‘stressed, short-tempered and grumpier than normal.’
His regular use of prostitutes was an open secret among work colleagues who were aware of his tastes.
Christina Abbotts murder: Timeline
2011– City banker Naseem starts using escorts, taking cocaine and drinking heavily after growing apart from his partner.
2015 – Former student Christine Abbotts sets up a profile on AdultWork.com advertising herself as an escort, working in secret while telling relatives and friends she is working in IT in London.
April 2018 – Naseem and Ms Abbotts for the first time, spending time at swanky London restaurants and hotels.
May 24 – Naseem is working in Toronto-Dominion Bank’s London office and arranges to meet Ms Abbotts when he finishes that evening. He takes a taxi to Crawley where the pair go to Asda to buy alcohol including her favourite brand of champagne Veuve-Clicquot. This is the last time they are seen in public.
May 25 – Ms Abbotts celebrates her 29th birthday, sending messages thanking family and friends for their best wishes.
Midday – This is the last time anyone was contacted by her or she picked up messages on her phone, indicating she was killed shortly afterwards.
2pm – Naseem sends explicit photos and a video of himself naked to another sex worker. The background of the video shows he is in the sitting room of Ms Abbotts’ flat. Later that afternoon a cleaner arrives to work at the flat but cannot get in because the door is locked from the inside and no-one answers when she knocks so she leaves.
Police at the flat where Ms Abbotts was found dead on her 29th birthday
5pm – Friend Roshan Periag is due to meet Ms Abbotts at the Park Plaza County Hall hotel in London where she was planning to stay to celebrate her birthday. She arranged to meet the rest of her friends for drinks from around 9pm in South Kensington bars. When she does not turn up and no-one can get hold of her they begin to worry, fearing it may have something to do with a stalker who was hassling her online. One friend phones the police while Mr Periag drives to Crawley and tries to find her at the flat.
May 26 – Mr Periag has no luck but can see the light of the computer screen through the window of her flat and goes to the police station to raise the alarm.
1.30am – Officers arrive at the address in Highams Hill, in the Gossops Green area of Crawley.
2.30am – Police break down the door of the flat, discovering the body of Ms Abbotts and Naseem lying naked on the sofa pretending to be unconscious.
5am – He is taken by ambulance to hospital and after he is checked over he is arrested on suspicion of murder. He is discharged and taken into custody for questioning.
December 11 – Naseem stands trial after denying murder.
December 20 – The jury find Naseem guilty of murder.