Two women and a man were found guilty of killing and torturing a vulnerable woman in her own flat.
The court convicted Ashana Studholme, Lisa Richardson, and Shaun Pendlebury on December 11 of murdering 33-year-old mother Shakira Spencer and preventing her burial.
Studholme, Ms Spencer’s former neighbour, headed the trio and kept Spencer in her flat in Harrow. Neighbours of Shakira Spencer said, in a piece published by the BBC, that the victim was “a loveable person, but very slow and socially awkward who presented as someone with learning difficulties".
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Brian Howie told the Daily Mail that the investigation into Ms Spencer’s death was “challenging” and “complex”. Footage, voice notes, and messages from the defendants enabled a verdict to be reached.
Neighbours found Shakira Spencer’s body rotting in her flat in Ealing, northwest London, claiming that the place was infested with maggots on Sunday 25, September 2022. Police recovered her body twelve days after Ms Spencer was last seen alive.
According to reports by the BBC, Daily Mail, and The Guardian, the group kept the victim in Studholme’s flat in Harrow for months where they almost beat her to death. Studholme texted Richardson: “I've buss her head in. I need you here, I will go to jail.”
Jurors were told on July 14 that she sent a message to a friend saying: “I've just f*ck this b*tch up this b*tch...she ant going no we're xx iamvgoing smash hur up nah joke.”
According to the Daily Mail, Richardson sent a message a day later on July 15 which said: “'So at the end of the day she deserved everything she got...”
“By July 2022 Shakira Spencer was just skin and bone. Gaunt and skeletal, bruised from head to foot, with hollowed black eyes. She was barely a scrawny size six in images taken by the defendants just before she died”, Prosecutor Allison Hunter, KC told the court, according to Sky News.
Pendelbury said in her court testimony, published by the Daily Mail, that she saw Studholme beating Ms Spencer on September 11 “dragging her, pulling her around and pushing her up against the cupboard door.
'I saw Lisa dragging Shakira about and I think she kicked and stamped on her a couple of times.'
“I didn't get involved I just went about my business. I didn't have no part. It had got to a point where seeing this just felt normal.
“It was just another day, sadly. This happened every day with them.”
Studholme, Pendlebury, and Richardson shoved Ms Spencer into the boot of a Honda Civic car, borrowed by Pendlebury, and drove to Spencer’s flat on September 13, leaving the victim locked in a cupboard.
According to Prosecutor Allison Hunter, KC, the group left Ms Spencer in the cupboard “and denied even food or water until she died.”
“She was then left to rot in a bed as they attempted to mop up anything showing their involvement.”
The group attempted to remove evidence linking them to Spencer’s attack. Sky News reported that Studholme, Pendlebury, and Richardson had set newspapers around the bed where Spencer was found to look like she died in her sleep.
The trio agreed on this plan, after they realised Spencer’s body was so decomposed they could not go through with the original plan to leave the body in a caravan belonging to Pendlebury’s aunt.
“It had first been their plan to dispose of her body in a caravan Pendlebury had borrowed from his same aunt on 15 September 2022,” Ms Hunter said according to the Daily Mail.
According to the BBC, CCTV footage showed the group using Spencer’s bank card to buy products in an attempt to clean up any remaining DNA evidence linking them to the murder. Studholme was heard shouting: "I can't go back to prison."
Shaun Pendlebury was in a relationship with Studholme during the months leading to Spencer’s death. Pendlebury's mother Michelle told the police that Studholme forced her son, Richardson, and at one time herself to attack Ms Spencer.
“She'll make you hit her too. She gets you riled up and you don't even know why you're just worked up.
“She wants you under her feet every 24 hours of a day. I felt like I was there every single day.
“I was at hers every single day, it was 'Michelle, can you do this, do that..'
“Even with partners she treated them like dogs.
“If you don't do what she says she'll hit you mate, she kicks, she doesn't care.”
Det Ch Insp Howie described Ashana Studholme to the BBC as “a cruel, manipulative, coercive individual,"
"She seems to have a power over people and controls them. She is just a vile person."
The Guardian reported that the court found Ashana Studholme was previously convicted of assaulting women in Edinburgh and London, and Shaun Pendlebury was previously charged with assaulting two police officers.
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