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British-Asian daughter abused daily before she died, sister tells UK court

A couple originally from Pakistan killed their British-born, teenage daughter because they could not stand the "shame" of her westernised outlook on life, a court hears.

Shafilea Ahmed died in 2003. Her remains were found five months later. Her parents, who both deny murder, were arrested in 2010. PA Archive
Shafilea Ahmed died in 2003. Her remains were found five months later. Her parents, who both deny murder, were arrested in 2010. PA Archive

LONDON // A couple originally from Pakistan killed their British-born, teenage daughter because they could not stand the "shame" of her westernised outlook on life, a court hears.

Shafilea Ahmed, 17, had rejected the traditional values of her father Iftikhar and mother Farzana, the prosecution told Chester Crown Court yesterday.

The Ahmeds are accused of murdering Shafilea at their home in the Manchester area nine years ago after she refused an arranged marriage.

Alesha Ahmed, the alleged victim's sister, told the court Shafilea had suffered months of domestic abuse at the hands of their parents. She had seen her parents stuff a plastic bag into Shafilea's mouth and then hold their hands over her face as they suffocated her.

Andrew Edis, prosecuting, said that Shafilea was "a thoroughly westernised young British girl of Pakistani origin" who would not submit to the traditional values of her parents.

A jury at Chester Crown Court was told that, early in 2003, the schoolgirl had drank bleach after discovering that her parents had taken her to a family wedding in Pakistan in a bid to force her into an arranged marriage.

Giving testimony for a second day, Alesha said that, while the family were at the wedding "my mum made a remark to Shafilea which I think was what triggered her into drinking bleach. She told Shafilea she would be staying in Pakistan and wouldn't be going back".

He parents later told Shafilea, who was brought back to England for hospital treatment that lasted three months, that she should tell people she had drunk bleach by mistake. When she was released from hospital, the teenager weighed just 31kg, her sister said.

Mr Ahmed, 52, and his 49-year-old wife, who both deny murder, were arrested in 2010 after Alesha, now 23, told police that she had seen her parents kill her sister at their home in Warrington in September 2003.

Mr Edis said that witnessing the killing of her sister had put Alesha "under great strain" and that she had only told police after a seven-year silence when she was arrested two years ago for her part in a robbery at her parents' home.

Alesha, in a witness protection programme, gave evidence behind a curtain concealing her from her parents and the public gallery said that, in the two years leading up to her death, Shafilea had been "physically abused virtually every day" by her parents because she had white friends, liked western pop music, used her mobile phone frequently and wore contemporary clothes.

She added that her parents, whom she had once seen threaten her sister by holding knives to her throat, also suspected that Shafilea was in contact with potential boyfriends.

Alesha said that her parents punished Shafilea by depriving her of food or hitting her. These punishments happened "pretty much every day, or every other day, even if it was arguments or little slaps here and there", Alesha said.

On September 11 2003 - the day Shafilea died - Alesha said her mother had been unhappy that Shafilea had worn a T-shirt to go to her part-time job in a call centre.

When Shafilea initially disappeared, her parents did not report her missing. Instead, a teacher at the teenager's school went to the police after she had not been to classes for a week.

Her remains were found five months later in undergrowth beside a river in the Lake District, 100 kilometres north of her home.

"She was a thoroughly westernised young British girl of Pakistani origin. Her parents had standards which she was reluctant to follow," said Mr Edis.

"The defendants, having spent the best part of 12 months trying to really crush her, realised they were never going to be able to succeed and finally killed her because her conduct dishonoured the family, bringing shame on them."

dsapsted@thenational.ae