A BUSINESSMAN is facing a murder trial after a woman failed to turn up to her own birthday celebrations and was found dead in a bed.

Dressed in a grey tracksuit and wearing glasses, dark-haired Zahid Naseem spoke to confirm his name, age and British nationality when he appeared at Hove Crown Court on Wednesday.

He is accused of killing university graduate Christina Abbotts, 29, who was found bludgeoned to death in Crawley on Friday night.

Naseem, who knew Ms Abbotts, was arrested at the flat in the Gossops Green area where she had been living, police said.

Paying tribute to their “sweet and loving” daughter, her family said the light in their life had been “extinguished”.

Naseem resigned in October as a member of London-based stockbroker Peel Hunt. He is also listed as the director of two management consultant companies, according to Companies House records.

The 47-year-old did not enter a plea when he appeared in court but Lewis Power QC, defending, said: “Although we are not in a position to go to arraignment, I have taken instructions that would indicate a not guilty plea to the charge of murder.

“It’s not a very straightforward case in terms of murder cases.”

The preliminary cause of death from a post-mortem examination was blunt force trauma to the head, a police spokesman said.

Neighbours said officers “flooded” into the street shortly after 10.30pm on Friday and searched the flat after friends, who reportedly said Ms Abbotts had been house sitting, were worried when she failed to meet them in London and raised the alarm.

Naseem, of Elm Close, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, said “Thank you” before being led away from the dock.

He is due back in court by video link to enter a plea on July 16. He is expected to stand trial for up to seven days from December 10.

Cases of this nature are often presided over by a High Court judge, the court heard.