11/12/2018 15:28 GMT | Updated 11/12/2018 15:30 GMT

Businessman ‘Bludgeoned Sex Worker To Death With Pestle’

Zahid Naseem denies murdering Christina Abbotts.

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Christina Abbotts was found dead in Crawley when friends raised the alarm after she failed to attend her own birthday party 

A businessman bludgeoned a 29-year-old student working as an escort to death with a pestle, a court heard.

Christina Abbotts 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 in May.

The sex worker, who advertised her services under the name Tilly Pexton on, had been struck 13 times on the back of the head with the black object – normally used with a mortar to crush ingredients – and was also possibly strangled, Lewes Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

Abbotts, who had studied in Cirencester and Oxford, had been housesitting at a flat for a friend who was away travelling.

Freelance financial consultant Zahid Naseem, who had been working for Toronto-Dominion Bank’s London office, denies murdering Abbotts sometime between May 25 and 26.

The 48-year-old stayed in the flat for 12 hours after she died, sending pornographic pictures and films to another sex worker and pretended to be unconscious when police broke down the door, prosecutor Christopher Tehrani told jurors.

He said: “He murdered Christina Abbotts. In short, the prosecution say the assault Christina Abbotts suffered which resulted in her death was brutal, savage, unnecessary and pointless.”

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Abbotts was flat sitting for a friend when she was found 

He continued: “You will hear she had an active social life.

“Unknown to many of her friends and family she was a sex worker. In some quarters she would be described as a high-class escort.”

Naseem, who lives in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, with his estranged partner and two children, wore a dark suit, white shirt, burgundy tie and glasses as he sat quietly in the dock in front of a public gallery packed with relatives and friends.

The pair had met on several occasions and arranged to see each other in Crawley before her birthday celebrations, the court heard.

They were seen buying alcohol in a nearby shop and when police searched the flat, a blood-stained bottle of Courvoisier brandy, cocaine and poppers were found.

No-one heard from Abbotts after midday on May 25, which was “very unusual”, the court heard.

When she did not turn up to her party, friends rang the police.

One of them, Roshan Periag, was so worried he drove to the flat in the early hours of the morning to try to find her before going to the nearest police station.

When officers arrived at the scene and broke down the door, Naseem was found lying motionless on the sofa with his eyes flickering.

He appeared to respond to light and a paramedic was “sceptical” that he was unconscious, the court heard.

After being arrested he was taken to hospital to be assessed where doctors discovered injuries consistent with self-harming.

He was discharged before being questioned by police.

He claimed the last thing he could remember was “passing out” after the pair met up in the flat, the court heard.

But Tehrani said: “The prosecution say there was nothing wrong with him. He was play acting.”

Examination of his phone found he had sent another sex worker a pornographic picture and a naked video of himself in the flat appearing to masturbate in the hours after Abbotts is thought to have been killed, the court was told.

Officers found a mortar – the other half of the pestle set – in the kitchen.

Naseem’s fingerprints were found in blood on the side of the bath, on a meat cleaver in the kitchen and on Abbott’s iPhone. Blood was also found in a half-filled bath with a knife at the bottom and other knives on the sofa.

Tehrani said there was no sign of forced entry and that “only someone with the powers of Spiderman” would have been able to access the flat in the top floor of the block in the Gossops Green area of the West Sussex town.

A post-mortem found she died of blunt-forced trauma to the head, sustaining 11 tears and two bruises, and there were signs of attempted strangulation on her neck.

The trial continues.