A City banker has been found guilty of murdering a high-class escort who he bludgeoned to death with a pestle on her 29th birthday in a champagne and cocaine-fuelled attack.
In the brutal and prolonged killing, Zahid Naseem struck Christina Abbotts 13 times on the back of the head with the large, black, ceramic kitchen utensil.
She was hit around 30 times in total all over her body while housesitting a flat for a friend in Crawley, West Sussex.
The jury of eight men and four women took about four hours to return the verdict at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday.
There were hushed gasps from members of Ms Abbotts’s family as the guilty verdict was announced.
Naseem, 48, showed little emotion as the verdict was read out, looking straight ahead with a slightly bowed head in a navy suit and green tie.
He is due to be sentenced on Friday by judge Christine Laing.
The victim Ms Abbotts, who was born in the West Midlands, was described as a “socialite” who led a party lifestyle in London, mixing with “posh” and wealthy friends, and telling relatives she worked in IT.
But secretly she advertised her services on site AdultWork.com under the pseudonym Tilly Pexton.
Naseem was working for Toronto-Dominion Bank’s London office when he found her profile offering overnight rates from £1,000.
The pair were last seen in public on the evening of May 24 when Naseem met her in Crawley before spending the night together.
CCTV showed him standing in an Asda supermarket aisle kissing her on the forehead as they bought her favourite brand of champagne, Veuve-Clicquot.
Worried friends started searching for her when she failed to turn up to her birthday party in South Kensington the next day.
Police found her body when they broke down the door of the flat in the early hours of the morning on May 26.
They discovered Naseem pretending to be unconscious in the next room, lying on a sofa completely naked apart from a dressing gown, surrounded by half-drunk glasses of alcohol, drugs paraphernalia and underwear.
Paramedics were convinced he was play acting, but he only woke up fully when he was arrested in hospital, claiming to have no idea what happened.
The freelance risk management consultant, who earned up to £250,000 a year and had previously worked for investment bank Merrill Lynch, initially claimed he could not remember the incident or knew how she died when he was interviewed by police.
When he gave evidence in court, he admitted striking Ms Abbotts but claimed it was in self-defence as he feared she was strangling him to death in a sex game gone wrong. He also said a “red mist” may have come over him.
But prosecutor Christopher Tehrani dismissed his testimony as “nonsense” and a “pack of lies”, telling him he carried on “relentlessly” during the “savage” attack.
He said Naseem stayed in the flat for 12 hours after her death – drinking, taking drugs and sending pornographic pictures and videos to other escorts.
Naseem told police he did not call for help when he realised she was dead because he “couldn’t see anything positive” coming out of the situation.
He could not explain how the pestle – coupled with a mortar bowl later found in the flat’s kitchen by officers – came to be in the bedroom.
The father of two young children, who lives in a £600,000 home in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, told the court he turned to escorts when the “whirlwind romance” with his partner fizzled out and they grew apart.
For the best part of a decade he hired sex workers, drank on an almost daily basis and took cocaine, telling the court the behaviour was common in the financial district.