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Mother jailed for minimum of 17 years for beating seven-year-old son to death with a stick because he couldn't recite Koran
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- Sara Ege, 33, beat son with a stick and burnt his body to conceal injuries
- Judge said in many ways 'you were a brilliant, devoted and loving mother'
- She confessed but later retracted her statement
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- Yaseen's murder could not have been predicted, says Cardiff council report
By Sean O'hare
PUBLISHED: 09:04 EST, 7 January 2013 | UPDATED: 12:40 EST, 7 January 2013
Sara Ege has been sentenced to 17 years in jail for murdering son Yaseen Ege, 7, in Cardiff in 2010
A woman who beat her son to death for failing to learn parts of the Koran by heart and burned his body to destroy the evidence has been jailed for life today.
Sara Ege, 33, dressed in brown, with a matching headscarf, collapsed as the sentence was delivered at Cardiff Crown Court.
She had to be helped from the dock as she was told she would serve a minimum of 17 years.
She had been praised as a 'brilliant mother' to seven-year-old Yaseen but was convicted of his murder by a jury at the same court last month.
Sara Ege told a confusing and contradictory series of stories to explain how her son met his death.
She began by playing the role of a heart broken parent mourning the tragic death of a much-loved son in a house blaze.
When it emerged that Yaseen was dead before the blaze was ever set, investigations began to uncover a history of violent abuse.
Within weeks of his death Ege made a chillingly frank confession detailing the extent of the beatings her son suffered at her hands.
She told how she beat Yaseen with such little provocation that she made frequent secret vows with herself to refrain from hurting him.
Well intentioned as they may have been, the vows were discarded within a few days and the violent beatings he suffered would restart.
Ege described her son collapsing at home on the day of his death while still murmuring extracts from the Koran.
The jury watched the grim video confession in silence during the trial. Ege herself was excused by the judge and was not present in court.
In the video Ege details how she forced her son to drink some milk before leaving him collapsed on the carpet next to his bed still reciting the Koran.
When she returns to the room it is to witness her son’s last moments of life, as she realises the extent of his injuries.
She panics as she sees she will be held accountable for his condition and decides to destroy evidence of her beatings by burning his body.
Yaseen Ali, 7, was found to have died before the blaze at his home started, leading police to investigate the mother who issued a frank confession before retracting her statement
Trial judge Mr Justice Wyn Williams accepted that she had suffered prolonged bouts of depression due to a number of factors but went on to highlight the crucial last three months of Yaseen's life.
'The violence that you perpetrated on your son was not confined to one day,' the judge told Ege as he passed sentence.
'I am satisfied that, over three months, you beat him on a number of occasions, often with a wooden pestle.
'His injuries must have caused him a good deal of pain. In my judgment Yaseen was subjected to prolonged cruelty.'
He said the evidence showed that, on the day Yaseen died, he was attacked and suffered 'serious abdominal injuries'.
'You abused the precious relationship between a parent and a child'
'There is a further aggravating feature and that is that you attempted to burn Yaseen's body. There can be no doubt that you set fire to his body in an attempt to evade the consequences of what you had done.'
Ege (left) described her son (right) collapsing at home on the day of his death while still murmuring extracts from the Koran
Yousef Ege, 38, pictured outside Cardiff Crown Court, was cleared of causing or allowing his son's death
He added: 'What was your motive for acting as you did? I am satisfied that, on the day of his death, Yaseen was kept home from school so that he could dedicate himself to his (Koran) studies.
'On that day Yaseen must have failed in some way because I am satisfied that it was that failure which was the trigger for the beating.'
'That is what you told the police in the course of your confession in July 2010 and I see no reason to doubt what you then said was true.'
The schoolboy had suffered multiple injuries to his body and died in July 2010 from internal injuries caused by three months of punishing beatings.
His death was treated as a terrible tragedy in the aftermath of the blaze but it was quickly found he was dead before it was set.
Ege accused husband Yousef Ege, 38, who stood trial with his wife, of being a violent bully who beat her and was their son's real killer.
But he was cleared of causing or allowing his son's death at home in Pontcanna, Cardiff, south Wales, by failing to act to prevent it.
Ege was found guilty both of murder and of a charge of perverting the course of justice
At various times she claimed to have been motivated by voices from the devil, egging her on, and also by bad spirits, called Jinn.
Ege, a mathematics graduate from India, also claimed at one point she believed the stick she used on her son had an evil spirit in it.
Evidence was given in court by a teaching assistant who noticed that Yaseen’s normal perfect writing had deteriorated.
Yaseen Ali's funeral drew large crowds from the Cardiff community saddened by the loss of the seven-year-old
She found he had been writing left handed because he found it too painful to hold a pencil with his right hand.
When asked why, he revealed his mother had hit him so hard on the hand as a punishment he could barely move his fingers.
On another occasion Ege was called to her son’s primary school when he was found to be in too much pain to sit.
He was sent home ill but Ege successfully managed to switch her son to a new school over the half term break.
Ege claimed in court that her husband was a violent bully who regularly beat her and was responsible for beating their son.
She claimed that husband Yousef beat Yaseen to death when the child tried to intervene to stop his father hitting her.
It was her husband, with the collusion of his family, who devised and carried out the plan to destroy evidence of the beatings, she said.
When that failed she was forced to make the confession she did because of a series of beatings and death threats from her husband.
Sentencing Ege today the judge took a series of mitigating factors into consideration.
He accepted that Ege suffered from a recurring psychiatric illness which, while not amounting to a defence of diminished responsibility, "lowered the degree of culpability".
Yaseen Ali's funeral in Cardiff following his death in July 2010
He also acknowledged that domestic violence, of which Ege had complained during the trial, was at least a factor in her mental state.
'I accept that, to an extent, you were a victim of domestic violence and had a difficult relationship with your husband and your mother-in-law,' the judge said.
He also accepted she had suffered a series of miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies before giving birth to Yaseen which had been a cause of depression.
Once she had successfully conceived a child she suffered post natal depression. Later she had breast cancer, an illness she went on to beat.
He said that he accepted that throughout most of Yaseen's life the evidence showed she had been a good mother.
'I also accept what Mr Murphy says: In many respects you were a devoted and loving mother. You did many fine things to bring Yaseen up a good boy.
'I give you credit for the good things that you did in Yaseen's life,' the judge said.
Sentencing had been adjourned from last year to allow the completion of a series of psychiatric reports into Ege's mental state.
The consensus of the reports was that Ege was suffering from depression during the vital final three months of her son's life.
Ege was arrested within weeks of her son's death and has spent the last two-and-half years in a series of secure units.
The judge said that he regarded that period as 'semi-incarceration' and would count it towards her 17 year minimum term sentence.
Cardiff Council published a six-page serious case review into the circumstances leading to Yaseen's death.
It detailed claims about domestic violence in the youngster's household dating back as far as 2003 and those initial concerns, told to a woman's safety group, were not reported to police or Cardiff Council's social services department.
Referrals to the council's children's services were delayed following fresh claims of domestic violence in 2007, the review also found.
But when police and children's services later tried to follow up on the reports, Ege declined the offers of intervention and said the matter was resolved.
Yaseen's murder could not have been predicted, the report said.