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Adoptive dad guilty of murdering 'bright and intelligent' two-year-old daughter

By Kelly-Ann Mills News Reporter

15:53, 9 Jan 2024 UPDATED16:01, 9 JAN 2024

Jan Gholami was accused of taking out his “bad temper” on little Zahra Ghulami and bashing her head against a wall. He and his wife Roqia Ghulam denied murder

Zahra Ghulami was just two years old (Image: PA)

A dad has been found guilty of murdering his two-year-old adopted daughter who died from significant head injuries.

Jan Gholami has denied taking out his “bad temper” on little Zahra Ghulami and bashing her head against a wall, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard. He and his wife Roqia Ghulami, both denied any part in her death in the girl's death.

Jan Gholami, and his wife, Roqia Ghulami have been on trial for the murder of Zahra Ghulami at their Gravesend home in May 2020. The little girl was taken to hospital with injuries on May 27, 2020 and she died two days later. Prosecutor Sally Howes KC told the court the toddler suffered a skull fracture caused by “significant impact with significant energy” at the hands of Gholami.

At Maidstone Crown Court, jurors convicted Gholami of murder in a majority verdict of 10 to two after deliberating for nearly 20 hours.Ghulami, 32, was cleared of murder but found guilty of cruelty of a person under 16 in a unanimous verdict. Gholami was also found guilty unanimously of child cruelty.

During the trial Ms Howes asked the dad: “You bashed her head against the wall, didn’t you? This caused bleeding under the brain lining, tearing of the brain itself and bleeding around the nerves that go from the eyes to the brain.”

But the father-of-four told jurors he went out to Tesco that morning and when he got home his son said Zahra had fallen down the stairs and was vomiting. The former farmer, originally from Afghanistan, also denied allegations of older injuries before her death including that he banged her head against the wall and fractured her skull on an earlier occasion.

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.” Gholami denied harming her or any of his children, and said when he saw Zahra, he was unsure if she was “completely unconscious” but his wife said she banged her head.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “I touched it [her head], I could see the swelling, I called my friend and told him to come here as quickly as possible. He also called the ambulance but it never arrived.”

During the cross-examination, Gholami repeatedly denied hurting Zahra. The shop worker said: “If I would do such things I wouldn’t come to this country, there was a lot of violence in Afghanistan already. The reason I came to this country was for the welfare of my children.”

The court heard how Gholami came to the UK in January 2016, while Ghulami was still in Afghanistan with their children. The couple then adopted Zahra in 2017, after Gholami’s friend, Zahra’s father, felt unable to look after her after his wife died in childbirth. In January 2019, Gholami applied for asylum for Ghulami from the UK, and she arrived with the children to join him.

Zahra was described as a “bright, intelligent” child who was “highly curious” and wanted to find out about everything. Ms Howes suggested there was a “rivalry” between Zahra and Gholami’s “favourite son” and that when he got upset by her, Gholami “would get angry with that little girl whether it was her fault or not”.

Ms Howes alleged the children had squabbled before the Tesco trip about going for ice cream and that something happened for Gholami to lose his temper with Zahra before he left. She also questioned why it took Gholami “so long” to call his friend for help, suggesting he realised the consequences of what he had done and was thinking what to do about it.

But Gholami said: “It never happened such a thing before, [this is the] first time I saw her in that state, I always look after my children.”

He added: “There’s no reason for me to get angry with my children. I love them.” He also denied having a favourite child, saying that he loved them “equally”. About Zahra, he said: “My treatment of her was always good, the same as the other children, sometimes I treated her better than others.”

Gholami, 32, and Ghulami, 32, of Oak Road, Gravesend were charged with murder, causing or allowing the death of a child and child neglect. They both denied the charges.

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