Sara Ege: Life jail for son's murder over Koran studies
A mother who beat her seven-year-old son to death when he failed to memorise passages from the Koran has been jailed for life, for a minimum of 17 years.
The judge told Sara Ege, 33, she subjected Yaseen Ege to prolonged cruelty and a ferocious beating at home in Pontcanna, Cardiff, in July 2010.
She also set fire to his body, and was convicted after a five-week trial.
Ege collapsed as the sentence was read out at Cardiff Crown Court and had to be helped from the dock.
She was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice and given a four-year sentence for that crime.
Her husband Yousuf Ege, a taxi driver, was cleared of allowing the death of a child by failing to protect him.
Sara Ege had pleaded not guilty to murder and claimed her husband was responsible for Yaseen's death.
Mr Justice Wyn Williams said: "I am satisfied that it was his failure to learn the Koran that day that resulted in the beating that caused his death."
He continued: "On the day of Yaseen's death you had kept him home from school so he could devote himself to his study of the Koran.
"He was memorising passages but on that day Yaseen must have failed in some way and it was that which was a trigger for the beating.
"You killed your own son. At the time of the killing he was particularly vulnerable because of his age and because of his relative physical frailty.
"In killing your son you abused a precious relationship of trust which does and should exist between a parent and a child."
After the sentencing, a serious case review was published, making seven recommendations for improvements, and said domestic violence involving the family had first been reported in 2003, and again in 2007.
But the review said while lessons could be learned, Yaseen's death could not have been predicted.
The judge said she had beaten him for three months leading up to his death, adding: "The cause of the beating was your unreasonable view that he wasn't learning passages quickly enough.
"The violence Yaseen suffered was not confined to the day of his death.
"For three months you beat him often with a wooden pestle and I'm confident these beatings left him in a significant amount of pain.
"This prolonged cruelty culminated on the day of his death in what was a savage attack. You then set fire to his body in an attempt to evade responsibility for what you had done.
"I accept you were a devoted and caring mum. Except for the obsession with Yaseen learning you did many fine things to bring him up as a young boy."
After the sentencing, Yaseen's father, Yousuf Ege, paid tribute to his son.
"My memories of my son are that he was a beautiful little boy, a very happy boy who was decent and polite," he said.
"It is hard for me now to describe my loving feelings for my son.
"He was loved by all who had known him due to his beautiful nature and his high academic level.
"I would like to thank all my family, friends for the endless support through these difficult times and I would like to thank all the people who sent messages of condolences."
Tributes also came from Yaseen's former teachers, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
An Arabic teacher said: "He was one of the best children ever. Yaseen was a boy who loved to learn, he was always happy, he was a very good boy, very intelligent and very polite."
Another teacher said Yaseen had a beautiful smile.
"He was a little angel and touched all our hearts with his kindness, we shall all miss him dearly," she said.
Yaseen's primary school teacher added: "He was a delightful little boy and beautifully behaved who always had a smile on his face.
"It was a pleasure having him in school with us."
Out of control
It was initially thought Yaseen had died in a fire, but tests later revealed he had died hours earlier.
In a complicated series of claims and counter-claims she had confessed to the murder and then retracted that confession.
She claimed her husband and his family forced her to make the confession and that he was the killer.
The harrowing confession was recorded by police and shown to the trial jury in evidence.
In it, Sara Ege described how Yaseen collapsed after she had beaten him while still murmuring extracts of the Koran.
"He was breathing as if he was asleep when I left him," she said. "He was still murmuring the same thing over and over again. I thought that he was just tired."
When she returned 10 minutes later she said she found her son shaking and shivering on the floor. He then died.
She then used barbecue gel to burn her son's body in an attempt to hide the evidence.
The mother also confessed to beating her son for no reason and that her anger often led to her being out of control.
She and her husband had enrolled Yaseen in advanced classes at their local mosque as they wanted him to become Hafiz - an Islamic term for someone who memorises the Koran.
As a child Sara Ege had taken part in competitions showing her knowledge of Islam and had recited from the Koran. The court heard that she had become increasingly frustrated with her son's inability to learn the passages.
She told officers: "I was getting all this bad stuff in my head, like I couldn't concentrate, I was getting angry too much, I would shout at Yaseen all the time.
"I was getting very wild and I hit Yaseen with a stick on his back like a dog."
She later retracted her statement.
The trial heard that Yaseen suffered significant abdominal injuries that were the cause of his death.
They included fractures which were non-accidental. He also had numerous historical injuries.
"Sara Ege made no attempt to seek the medical attention he so obviously needed," the court was told during the trial by prosecutor Ian Murphy.