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Sophia Peters: Dad jailed for dressing gown cord murder

Sophia Peters Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Sophia Peters was strangled at her family home in Blenheim Road in Wimbledon on 3 November

A father has been jailed for murdering his daughter by strangling her with a dressing gown cord at their family home in south-west London.

Robert Peters, 56, denied murdering Sophia Peters, seven, but changed his plea on the third day of his trial.

Sophia was killed just over a month after her depressed and suicidal father was found not to be a risk by a child protection team.

Mr Justice Edis jailed Peters at the Old Bailey for a minimum of 24 years.

Peters, who ran an antiques firm in Kensington, throttled Sophia at their house on Blenheim Road, Wimbledon, on 3 November.

He then called police to report what he had done. Sophia was rushed to St George's Hospital, Tooting, where she died the following day.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Robert Peters was jailed for a minimum of 24 years

During sentencing, Mr Justice Edis described Peters as "deceitful and manipulative" and "calculating and disingenuous" in the way he hid his plans.

"This was a determined, premeditated killing in which there was an intention to kill," he said.

The judge said it was "impossible to imagine the last few conscious minutes of that child's life".

"Asleep in bed, she no doubt felt safe and believed that, should she need it, she had the protection of her father."

Image copyright CentralNews
Image caption Sophia was described by Mr Justice Edis as "a lovely little girl who loved her parents and thought that they loved her"

Sophia's mother Krittiya Peters said in a statement to the court that she had struggled to come to terms with the death of her daughter.

"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."

The jury had heard that Peters told police he had financial worries and his business was going bankrupt - even though later inquiries found he had money in the bank.

The former Israeli soldier had also recently ended a two and a half-year affair with a married Home Office official he met online.

In the months before the killing, Peters searched the internet for "serial killers", "treatment of child killers in prison" and "premeditated murder".

Image caption Sophia was found with a dressing gown cord around her neck in her bedroom in the house

He chose his opportunity to kill Sophia before she had been due to return to her boarding school after the half-term break.

Peters waited until his wife had gone out before he woke Sophia up in bed by tying a cord around her neck and throttling her for up to 30 minutes.

She asked him what he was doing and Peters said "sorry", but carried on as she struggled, the court heard.

Image copyright CentralNews
Image caption Krittiya Peters said in a statement: "I always think to myself if Robert was ill why didn't he kill himself, why?"

Following the sentencing, Det Insp Helen Rance 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."

Merton Council said its Safeguarding Children Board would be meeting to "consider the lessons to be learned" from Sophia's death.

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