Gardener who strangled gran, 80, in allotment row jailed for at least 19 years

An "evil" gardener who strangling an elderly widow to avoid being thrown off his allotment has today been jailed for life with a minimum of 19 years.

Rahim Mohammadi killed Lea Adri-Soejoko, 80, with a lawnmower flex and hid her body at Colindale allotments in north London in February last year.

The allotment secretary was found dead in a locked mower shed after her family raised concerns that she had failed to turn up at a meeting.

The mum-of-two was wearing Wellington boots and an apron and had her keys in her pocket.

Mohammadi, 42, from Hackney, north London, was found guilty of her murder following a retrial at the Old Bailey.

And today Judge Richard Marks QC sentenced him to a minimum of 19 years at the same court.

The judge said: "How bitterly ironic that the place she loved so much – the allotment – was the place she met her death."

John Price QC, prosecuting, had told jurors the Iranian had a reputation for having a "volatile" temper.

Dying mum repeatedly told son ‘I love you’ as he knifed her to death in kitchen

He had been involved with the allotment since 2008 through Freedom from Torture, an organisation helping torture victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In September 2016, he clashed with Mrs Adri-Soejoko at an allotment association meeting.

Mr Price said the defendant had ambitions to take over running the allotment, making Mrs Adri-Soejoko wary of him.

During a heated discussion over evictions, she had told him to "shut up" and Mohammadi called her a "bloody old witch", the court heard.

In February last year, Mohammadi beat up Mrs Adri-Soejoko on the allotment, causing bruises and fractures to the ribs.

The prosecution alleged he then throttled her with the mower flex to stop her from reporting the attack, which would have led to his eviction.

Mr Price said: "Mrs Adri-Soejoko was beaten up. That in turn does point to a motive for her murder – to avoid detection for a shocking and very serious assault on a vulnerable old lady."

The victim’s body was locked up in the mower shed, which only four key-holders had access to, including Mohammadi and Mrs Adri-Soejoko, whose set were in her pocket.

The prosecution said Mohammadi had planned to move her to avoid suspicion being cast at him, but police following the sound of her ringing phone found the body before he could act.

His DNA was found on the cord used to strangle her and he was caught on CCTV coming and going from the allotment, jurors were told.

In police interviews, Mohammadi gave different and inconsistent accounts of his movements.

DNA belonging to a second suspect was retrieved from the victim’s right hand, but extensive inquiries found he had been nowhere near Colindale.

The court heard Mohammadi sought political asylum in Britain in 2005 and was given indefinite leave to remain in 2010.

Giving evidence, he said he had gone to the allotments to buy opium for his bad back on the day of the killing.

He claimed he heard shouting but dismissed it as a drunken fight.

Mrs Adri-Soejoko’s children and grandchildren attended court throughout the trial.

The defendant made no reaction as the jury delivered its guilty verdict, watched in silence by his victim’s family who held hands in court.

But as he was led from the dock, Mohammadi turned to the jury and said: "You will have that on your conscience sending an innocent man to prison."

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