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West Sussex - A woman was discovered beaten to death in bed on her birthday after failing to turn up to her own party.

The body of Christina Abbotts, 29, was found by police after her worried guests raised the alarm.

She died from head injuries after being attacked with a blunt object on Friday night while flat-sitting for a friend.

Businessman Zahid Naseem, 47, was arrested with minor injuries at the scene in Crawley, West Sussex, and appeared in court on Monday charged with murder.

On Monday, Miss Abbotts’ father Michael, 68, said he and his wife Pirkko, 69, had planned to have a birthday lunch with her on Sunday.

Speaking from their home in Stourbridge, West Midlands, he added: "Christina was due to come home to visit. Instead we had to drive down to Crawley to identify her body."

"She had been beaten to the back of the head with a blunt instrument. We don’t know what her relationship is to the man who has been arrested."

"She had been living in Westminster, then she moved back home for a while. But she found the Black Country too quiet. She was drawn to the bright lights of London."

Mrs Abbotts, who is Finnish, added: "She was a lovely girl, my best friend."

"We should be with us eating lunch right now. We can’t believe what has happened."

The couple, who also have a son, Stephen, 32, said in a statement that Miss Abbotts was a "sweet and loving daughter", adding: "The light in our life is now extinguished." Miss Abbotts, who worked in IT, had been house-sitting for more than three months in the Gossops Green area of Crawley for a friend travelling in Thailand.

Naseem, of Amersham, Buckinghamshire, appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Monday charged with her murder, speaking only to confirm his name, birth date and address.

The company director, who describes himself as a management consultant, resigned last year from a City stockbroker.

According to public records, one of his businesses went into liquidation last year with debts of more than £120 000 (almost R2 million).

He lives with his long-term partner, Helen, in a £600 000 (about R10 million) semi-detached house in a private road. One neighbour said: "I am really just too shocked. He is a lovely man."

Miss Abbotts attended Ridgewood High School in Stourbridge before moving on to the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester. She took a business studies degree at Oxford Brookes University, but left before graduating after receiving a job offer.

Her parents said they last saw her three weeks ago when she visited Stourbridge. Mr Abbotts added: ‘Christina was a loving daughter. She was bossy! She used to keep me in my place.

"But she was so sweet. We are all just in shock."

Police said she was known to Naseem, but did not reveal the nature of their relationship.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Police were called at 10:30pm on Friday by a woman’s friends concerned that she hadn’t turned up to pre-arranged plans."

"Officers found a woman, aged in her twenties, dead in a bed."

"A 47-year-old man was also found in the property with some minor injuries. He was checked over by an ambulance crew before being arrested on suspicion of murder."