Antiques dealer strangled daughter after fearing he was about to go bankrupt, court is told
An antiques dealer strangled his seven-year-old daughter with a dressing gown cord to spare her the "pain and upset" of bankruptcy, a court has heard. Robert Peters, 56, who ran a business in Kensington, central London, with his brother, claimed he had been worried about finances when he killed Sophia at their home in Wimbledon. But the Old Bailey was told he had no mortgage arrears or defaults of his accounts and there was also money in the bank. Mr 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 half an hour. Afterwards, he called 999 and told police to come to his home telling them: "There been a murder." He said a child had been killed, and when asked who had done it, replied: "I have." Sophia Peters was found dead after being strangled with a dressing gown cord Credit: Central News When officers arrived at his £1 million home, Mr Peters calmly told them: "She's upstairs. I've strangled her. My daughter, she's upstairs in her bedroom." Sophia had a weak pulse and was rushed to hospital, but despite being treated in intensive care, died next day. Following his arrest Mr Peters, who had been married three times, told a mental health nurse he had twice tried to kill himself in 2017. He said he had been thinking of killing his wife and daughter for several weeks so they could be "spared the pain and upset when he became bankrupt". Mr Peters claimed he expected to go bust in a couple of months and they would lose everything including their home. But the court was told a preliminary examination of Peters' finances revealed he he was not in debt. In police interview, he said Sophia had woken up just as he put the cord around her neck and asked: "What are you doing?" He said she had struggled a little bit as he strangled her for about 20 minutes. He told officers it had been his last opportunity to kill his daughter as she was due to go back to boarding school after the half-term break. Peters said he had been having an affair for the last two and a half years, moved out of the family home, then returned having ended it. Robert Peters is on trial at the Old Bailey in central London Credit: PA A post-mortem examination found Sophia, who had a hole in the heart as a baby, suffered fatal brain damage. Prosecutor Mukul Chawla QC said: "There is no dispute that the defendant killed Sophia. The prosecution case is that that killing amounted to murder. "On the part of Mr Peters, it is suggested that the killing was not murder but manslaughter." Mr Chawla said the jury would have to consider Peters' mental state and whether it was a "significant contributory factor". It was not disputed that he suffered a depressive illness of "moderate severity", the Old Bailey heard. But the prosecutor said: "Simply suffering from such a condition is not enough to enable a killing to be reduced from murder to manslaughter." Peters has admitted manslaughter but denies murder. In the months before the killing, Peters searched the internet for "serial killers", "treatment of child killers in prison" and "premeditated murder", the court heard. Jurors were told that a child welfare assessment in the wake of Peters' August suicide attempt had concluded he was not a risk to himself and others. The case was closed on September 27, just over a month before Sophia was killed. Sophia's mother, Peters' third wife, sat in the court as the case was opened. The trial continues.