Father who murdered adopted daughter, 2, after she squabbled with ‘favourite son’ about ice cream is jailed for life

17 February 2024, 10:25

Zahra Ghulami died aged two.
Zahra Ghulami died aged two. Picture: PA/Kent Police

By Jenny Medlicott

A father has been jailed for life for murdering his two-year-old adopted daughter after she argued with his ‘favourite son’ over ice cream, a court heard.

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Zahra Ghulami died after her adopted father Jan Gholami, 33, “bashed her head against a wall” at their home in Gravesend in May 2020, Maidstone Crown Court heard.

The two-year-old suffered a skull fracture caused by "significant impact", jurors were told.

Zahra was taken to hospital where she died two days later.

Gholami told the jury he had gone to Tesco on the morning of her injury, saying that when he returned his son said Zahra had fallen down the stairs and was vomiting.

But the prosecution said he went to Tesco after he inflicted the injuries on Zahra.

Prosecutor Sally Howes said there was a "rivalry" between Zahra and Gholami's "favourite son".

She suggested the children had squabbled before the Tesco trip about going for ice cream and Gholami lost his temper with the little girl.

Her cause of death was given as a severe head injury and skull fracture by Professor Charles Mangham, an osteoarticular pathologist.

Gholami was found guilty of murder and child cruelty on January 9.

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Zahra died in hospital two days later.
Zahra died in hospital two days later. Picture: PA/Kent Police

His wife, Roqia Ghulami, was cleared of murder but found guilty of child neglect.

She was handed a two-year sentence on Friday.

The couple adopted Zahra in 2017 after Gholami's friend, Zahra's father, felt unable to look after her after his wife died in childbirth.

This happened when his wife Ghulami was in Afghanistan and the adoption was approved by village elders.

In January 2019, Gholami applied for asylum for Ghulami from the UK, and she later arrived with the children to join him.

The court also heard evidence of alleged domestic abuse by Gholami against Ghulami, with a neighbour claiming she saw Gholami punch Ghulami in the face outside their home.

Jan Gholami has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years.
Jan Gholami has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years. Picture: PA/Kent Police
His wife was sentenced for two years for child neglect.
His wife was sentenced for two years for child neglect. Picture: PA/Kent Police

Jurors heard how Ghulami told a police officer and social worker in June 2019 that he beat her, sometimes by slapping her or banging her head against a wall, and she was scared he would kill her.

Prosecutor Ms Howes said: "Because this is what you do.

"You bang people's heads against walls.

"Because you've done this before and Zahra had survived, you just walked away and went to Tesco."

Kent Police's senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Ross Gurden, said after sentencing that Zahra was betrayed by people she trusted in the "most brutal way".

He added: "Gholami inflicted catastrophic injuries on Zahra, and his partner failed to intervene to help her.

"This outcome can never bring Zahra back but does ensure those responsible for her death have been brought to justice."

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