Adoptive father jailed for 23 years for murder of two-year-old girl at home

A father has been sentenced to a minimum of 23 years in prison for murdering his two-year-old adopted daughter who died after he “bashed her head against a wall”.

Zahra Ghulami suffered a skull fracture caused by “significant impact” at the hands of Jan Gholami, 33, at their home in Gravesend, Kent, in May 2020.

The girl was taken to hospital on May 27 2020 and died two days later.

Prosecutor Sally Howes KC had said the father of four took out his “bad temper” on Zahra and bashed her head against a wall.

Jan Gholami and Roqia Ghulami court case
Jan Gholami was found guilty last month of murdering his two-year-old adopted daughter (Kent Police/PA)

Gholami, of Oak Road, Gravesend, was also unanimously found guilty of child cruelty.

Gholami’s wife, Roqia Ghulami, was cleared of murder during the trial but was also found guilty of child neglect unanimously by the jury.

The 32-year-old, of Oak Road, Gravesend, was also sentenced to two years in prison at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday.

During the trial, Zahra was described as a “bright, intelligent” child who was “highly curious” and wanted to find out about everything.

Former farmer Gholami told jurors he went to Tesco that morning and when he got home 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.

Ms Howes had said there was a “rivalry” between Zahra and Gholami’s “favourite son” and suggested the children had squabbled before the Tesco trip about going for ice cream and Gholami lost his temper with the little girl.

Ghulami did not give evidence in court but told police she thought Zahra fell down the stairs.

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

Jurors were told Gholami, originally from Afghanistan, came to the UK in January 2016 while Ghulami was still in Afghanistan with their children.

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 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 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.

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.

Gholami denied hurting his wife, and also denied allegations of inflicting older injuries on Zahra before her death.

They included that he banged her head against the wall and fractured her skull on an earlier occasion.

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.”

Gholami will serve 23 years and six months before he is eligible to be considered for parole.

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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