A Birmingham mother who starved her seven-year-old daughter to death has been cleared of murder after prosecutors accepted her defence of diminished responsibility.
Angela Gordon, who admitted the manslaughter of Khyra Ishaq two weeks ago, was formally found not guilty of murder by jurors at Birmingham Crown Court on the orders of trial judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans.
The decision by the Crown to accept Gordon's plea to the lesser charge came after she admitted five counts of child cruelty and psychiatrists agreed that she was suffering from severe depression when Khyra died at their Handsworth home in May 2008.
The decision to accept Gordon's plea of not guilty to murder was taken in the sixth week of a retrial after several days of psychiatric assessment and legal argument.
Gordon, 35, and Khyra's stepfather, 30-year-old Junaid Abuhamza, who also pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, will now be sentenced on Friday next week.
Explaining the decision not to pursue the murder charge against Gordon, prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC said three psychiatrists had agreed that she was suffering from severe depression in the month before Khyra died at her home in Leyton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
Mr Raggatt added: "For that reason we cannot resist the defence of diminished responsibility, now raised for the first time.
"It is extraordinary that it emerges so late (in the trial) but the sole reason for that is the denial... that Angela Gordon has put up around herself for all these months."
Mr Raggatt told the opening of the retrial, which followed an aborted trial held last summer, that Khyra died after being starved by her mother and stepfather during months of "calculated" cruelty.
Khyra eventually succumbed to an infection after being starved "quite deliberately" while being kept prisoner in her own home.
When he opened the case against Gordon and Abuhamza in January, Mr Raggatt warned jurors that aspects of the case would upset and disturb them.
Khyra was so emaciated at the time of her death on May 17, 2008, that her condition was outside the experience of medical professionals.
Abuhamza, who lived at Leyton Road in the months leading up to the death, also pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty relating to five other children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
The other children, who were also in the defendants' care, were "similarly starved" and assaulted, the court heard, with two of them found to be in a state of acute, severe and dangerous malnutrition.
Before Gordon pleaded guilty to child cruelty and was cleared of murder, her counsel, Michael Burrows QC, said psychiatrists had agreed that her condition substantially impaired her ability to function effectively as a mother.
Before jurors were directed to clear Gordon, Mr Burrows told the court: "The jury already know that Angela Gordon has been assessed by three psychiatrists.
"From what they have said in reports, it is clear and beyond dispute that Angela Gordon was, from the beginning of 2008, depressed, and for a period of around a month before Khyra's death, severely depressed."
Speaking on the steps of the court building, Khyra's natural father, Ishaq Abuzaire, thanked his family and members of the Islamic community for their support since the death of his daughter.
He added: "I would also like to thank West Midlands Police for their efforts - they have shed a lot of light on the whole situation.
"I would also say thanks to the CPS, who, in my opinion, gave a good fight in the courts."
Khyra's father also thanked her school for its efforts to protect her and doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital for their attempts to revive her.
Although he expressed disappointment that the defendants were not convicted of murder, Mr Abuzaire went on: "As far as the law is concerned, I am satisfied with the results.
"I think manslaughter was the right decision and the right outcome."
Mr Abuzaire said it had been horrific to see professional doctors reduced to tears and also disclosed that he had not been able to bring himself to look a pictures of Khyra's injuries.
Martin Lindop, district Crown prosecutor for Birmingham, said the manslaughter pleas from both defendants were accepted as a result of the content of psychiatric reports.
"In every prosecution the CPS has an ongoing duty to review the evidence and decide whether their remains a realistic prospect of securing a conviction.
"As a result of the content of a number of psychiatric reports, which we received at a very late stage in the case, we concluded that the charge of murder in relation to Khyra Ishaq could no longer be sustained.
"We have therefore accepted the guilty pleas to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility."
Commenting on the facts of the case, Mr Lindop said: "This was the first case of its kind in the West Midlands where we have had to initiate a prosecution on an individual for starving a child to death, and due to the circumstances of this case, this was one of the most distressing cases that we have had to deal with in recent times.
"We appreciate that this case has been difficult for Khyra's birth father and her other family members and we continue to extend our sympathies to all of them."