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What happened to Shakira Spencer? A campaign of torture and starvation that ended in murder

In less than 18 months, Shakira Spencer went from being a “beautiful, happy, healthy” size 16 to a “gaunt and skeletal” size six.

She died after she was tortured, starved and beaten by her former neighbour, the neighbour’s lover and their friend.

As the trio are jailed for life after being found guilty of murder in December, Sky News looks at how the mother-of-two ended up under the “complete control” of her killers before being left to die.

A complex web of relationships

Ms Spencer had known her killers for some time, according to the Metropolitan Police, in what the force called a “complex web of relationships”.

The 35-year-old fell under the control of former neighbour Ashana Studholme, 39, her lover Shaun Pendlebury, 26, and their friend Lisa Richardson, 45.

Over a period of months, Ms Spencer was subdued and dominated, mainly by Studholme and Richardson, to the point where she was under all of their “complete control”, jurors were told.

She was isolated, prostituted and the trio took over her money. She would be woken up in the early hours of the morning to clean her tormenters’ houses and run errands.

Shakira Spencer, pictured in 2022, who was found dead in Ealing, west London
Image: Shakira Spencer pictured in 2022. Pic: PA

A months-long campaign of abuse

The trio subjected Ms Spencer to months of beatings, enslavement, humiliation and degradation. They scalded her feet and fed her only sachets of ketchup, the court heard.

Prosecutor Allison Hunter KC said Ms Spencer had been a “healthy” size 16 in 2021.

“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.

“For whatever was their unfathomable, cruel, sadistic motive, these three defendants tormented, tortured, starved, burned and eventually battered Shakira Spencer to death.”

Ms Spencer could be “vulnerable”, according to police. Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Brian Howie, described her as “a beautiful, happy mother who was kind and had a trusting nature”.

 Shakira Spencer, pictured in 2007, who was found dead in Ealing, west London on Sunday, 25 September
Image: Shakira Spencer in 2007

Ms Spencer’s final moments

The abuse reached a “frenzied climax” around 11 and 12 September 2022 when Ms Spencer was beaten “to the brink of death” at Studholme’s home.

Instead of taking her to hospital, Pendlebury and Studholme put her in the boot of the car and drove her home.

In what police called a “completely unfathomable evil act”, they then bundled her into a cupboard where they left her to die.

Her body was later moved to the bottom of a children’s bunk bed where it was left to rot, the court heard.

A precise cause of death could not be established due to the poor condition of her body.

However, a post-mortem examination found crushing injuries to her ear, cuts to her scalp and scalding wounds to her feet.

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How police found the culprits

As part of the attempted cover-up, the trio bought cleaning products using Ms Spencer’s bank card and cleaned the victim’s blood, bodily fluids and DNA from their homes. They also removed all traces of their presence from Ms Spencer’s flat.

Ms Spencer’s badly decomposed body was found about two weeks after her death after neighbours saw maggots coming from her flat in Ealing, west London.

Later that night, one of Pendlebury’s relatives called the police to say he had confessed to being involved in killing a woman along with Studholme and Richardson.

The trio were arrested hours later and taken into custody.

When officers seized their phones, they uncovered hundreds of messages about the abuse they had subjected Ms Spencer to, alongside videos of her being beaten up while the others laughed.

The three defendants were all found guilty of murder and preventing a lawful burial.

They were all sentenced to life with a minimum term of 34 years.

Sky News Source