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Three jailed for life for murder of woman they ‘treated like slave’

Three jailed for life for murder of woman they ‘treated like slave’

Three people have been jailed for life for the murder of a vulnerable woman who was tortured, starved and battered to death.

Shakira Spencer, 35, died after falling under the influence of her former neighbour Ashana Studholme, 39, her lover Shaun Pendlebury, 26, and their friend Lisa Richardson, 45.

The trio, from west London, “treated her like a slave”, scalded her feet and fed her only ketchup from sachets, the Old Bailey was told.

On Friday, Studholme, Pendlebury and Richardson were each ordered to serve minimum terms of 34 years.

In an impact statement read to the court, Ms Spencer’s son, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I’ve suffered with daily nightmares and anxiety over what happened to her, I cannot get the horrible image of my mother looking skinny and unwell out of my head.

“Why were they (the defendants) so heartless? What could cause them to torture another human?

“I hope that every day they feel bad for the choices they have made.

“I cannot believe people she thought were her friends would ever do this to her.

“These people are cruel and evil, they do not deserve to live a normal happy life again.

“To me, my mum was the best – she was not perfect but she made me feel happy, safe and loved, I miss her every day and wish for a chance to see and speak with her again.

“I never got to say goodbye to her, or to tell her that I loved her – these people let her die alone with her feeling she was unloved, as they had taken everybody away from her.”

Sentencing the trio, Judge Angela Rafferty KC said Studholme, Pendlebury and Richardson inflicted an “orgy of violence” on Ms Spencer.

She said: “Images of Shakira before she fell under your influence show her full of life, healthy and smiling – she is unrecognisable at the end, emaciated and broken.

“All who watched it will be slow to forget the CCTV footage of her trying to walk on scalded feet in the middle of the night.

“You, Pendlebury, lived in her flat whilst she slept in a bike shed; you, Studholme, started as a friend but ended as the worst kind of enemy a person could have; you, Richardson, showed Shakira nothing but exceptional contempt and aggression.

“Leading up to her murder she was routinely and continually humiliated, degraded and dehumanised.

Shakira Spencer
Shakira Spencer, pictured in 2022, was said to have become ‘gaunt and skeletal’ in the months before her death (Met Police/PA)

“She was lovable, soft and trusting, easy to take advantage of, and she needed a lot of help and support.

“Her friend said that a calculated person would easily be able to exploit Shakira – she was no match for the three of you.

“None of you took any responsibility and you continue to blame each other to this day – you have no remorse.

“This murder is marked by extreme, calculated and brutal violence and torture.

“I am of no doubt that you all intended to kill Shakira.

“This was a sadistic campaign in which you all took pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering on a vulnerable woman.”

Ms Spencer’s body was found badly decomposed on September 25 2022 after neighbours saw maggots coming from her flat in Ealing, west London, and called police.

The mother-of-two had been isolated and forced into sex work in the months leading up to her death, it was claimed during the trial.

In early 2021 she was reportedly a “healthy” size 16, but was “gaunt and skeletal” by July 2022.

Ms Spencer’s mother, Merjia Spencer, said: “She always wanted to be liked, which made her keen to please people, and thoughtful – however, this trait also made her vulnerable.

“The defendants have, over many months, taken away everything that Shakira loved.

“She was isolated from her family and friends, her health deteriorated and she was almost unrecognisable.

“The defendants were not content with the complete destruction of Shakira’s life: when she was at her lowest the defendants have tortured and murdered her like a pack of animals.”

In December last year a jury found Studholme, Pendlebury and Richardson guilty of murdering Ms Spencer and preventing her lawful burial.

In a statement released after the hearing, Devi Kharran, senior Crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Evidence presented during the trial proved that Pendlebury, Studholme and Richardson exercised twisted and sadistic control of Shakira Spencer over an extended period.

“They spun a web of lies in every effort to hide their actions.

“The level of suffering that Shakira endured is simply unimaginable.”