'Deceitful' father, 56, who strangled daughter, seven, to death jailed for 24 years
A ‘deceitful and manipulative’ antiques dealer has been jailed for at least 24 years for strangling his seven-year-old daughter to death.
Robert Peters, 56, murdered Sophia Peters at the £1 million home in Wimbledon, south-west London, he shared with wife Krittiya.
The Old Bailey heard how ‘duplicitous’ Peters researched the killing on the internet but kept his plans secret from authorities who assessed he was no risk to others after two suicide attempts in 2017.
Former Israeli soldier Peters, who suffered from depression, pleaded guilty to Sophia’s murder on the third day of his trial.
He throttled Sophia with a dressing gown cord while alone with her at the family home.
When she woke up and asked what he was doing, Peters said ‘sorry’ but carried on anyway.
Afterwards, he called 999 to report what he had done and the child was rushed to hospital, but died the following day.
Jailing him for life with a minimum term of 24 years, Mr Justice Edis said: ‘This was a determined pre-mediated killing in which there was an intention to kill.
‘It is impossible to imagine the last few conscious minutes of that child’s life. She was a lovely little girl who loved her parents and thought that they loved her.
‘Asleep in bed, she no doubt felt safe and believed that should she need it she had the protection of her father.
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‘Her shock and bewilderment to find that he was set on her death amounted, in my judgement, to an intentional act of cruelty over an above the killing itself.
‘I do not think the defendant intended to wake her up but when she did, he carried on anyway, now knowing that the death would not be a painless and oblivious event.’
The judge said Peters was ‘deceitful and manipulative’ and ‘calculating and disingenuous’ in the way he hid his plans.
He added: ‘This was a premeditated crime carefully thought through and relentlessly executed.’
The killing came just over a month after depressed and suicidal Peters was found not to be a risk by a Merton child protection team.
Peters made a number of online searches about child killers and other topics from August 2017 up until November 2 – the night before the murder.
On August 2 Peters searched for ‘what do lifers do in prison’ and ‘what’s a psychopath’.
Mrs Peters said she struggled to come to terms with the murder of her ‘beautiful’ daughter at the hands of her husband.
Mrs Peters said in a statement read to court: ‘The third of November 2017 is a day that my life changed forever. My beautiful daughter Sophia was hurt by my husband Robert a man who I never thought would hurt (her).
‘From the time Sophia was taken to St George’s Hospital I was with her until she died. I could not believe Robert killed Sophia because I thought he loved her so much.
‘Since Sophia died I have been on a rollercoaster of emotions.
‘Sophia was a beautiful, loving, active, adventurous, brave and outgoing girl. She loved to dance and sing. I would give anything I have to be able to bring my daughter back.’
At first, Mrs Peters said she was ‘worried and concerned’ about her husband’s mental health.
But she added: ‘Now I no longer worry about him. I don’t care about him as he killed our beautiful daughter.
‘I always think to myself if Robert was ill why didn’t he kill himself, why did he kill my innocent daughter.
‘I wish if only Robert had permanently left and set up home with his mistress, I would still have (Sophia).’
She said she cried constantly and suffered sleeplessness because ‘I think more about what Robert did to Sophia’.
After Peters was jailed for life with a minimum of 24 years, Mrs Peters said: ‘I feel betrayed and angry at my husband, who was supposed to look after and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our family at all costs.’
Detective Inspector Helen Rance, of Scotland Yard, said: ‘The death of a child is something no family should have to go through, but the fact that Sophia Peters died at the hands of her own father makes it truly dreadful.
‘Sophia was a loving and much-loved child whose loss has devastated all who knew her from her family through to her school friends and teachers. I hope that the conclusion of the judicial process will be of some comfort to all those so terribly affected by her death.’
An NSPCC spokesman said: ‘This is a desperately sad case in which a young girl’s life was cut brutally short by her own father.
‘Cases where a young child is murdered in these horrific circumstances are mercifully rare but we know that abuse and neglect take place every day in too many homes across the country, each damaging a child’s future. We all have a duty to look out for their welfare.’