I did not hurt my daughter, father tells murder trial

As his wife changes her story, Iftikhar Ahmed says he had nothing to do with Shafilea's killing

A father accused of murdering his 17-year-old daughter because he believed she had brought shame on his family broke down in court yesterday as he denied the charge.

Iftikhar Ahmed took to the stand for the first time two days after his co-accused wife changed her defence to say she had witnessed him attacking their daughter Shafilea.

After previously denying any knowledge of the alleged crime, Farzana Ahmed, 49, now claims her husband had threatened to beat her and their other children if she ever asked him what happened to Shafilea.

But yesterday Mr Ahmed, 52, told the honour killing trial at Chester Crown Court that he did not hurt his daughter or have anything to do with her murder.

He told defending QC Tom Bayliss that he "couldn't believe it when we heard" about his daughter's body being found on the bank of the river Kent in Cumbria in February 2004. He added: "We were devastated to find she had left home in the first place."

The prosecution claims Shafilea, who went missing in September 2003, was killed by her parents because she brought shame on the family by her desire to lead a westernised lifestyle.But Mr Ahmed told jurors he "totally agreed" with his daughter's ambition to become a solicitor.

In yesterday's court exchanges Mr Bayliss asked Mr Ahmed about his attitude towards his daughter's social life, her friends and boyfriends.

Mr Ahmed said he did not have any problem with his daughter's friends and that he was not aware of any boyfriends at the time.

He was asked what he would have thought if he known about boyfriends. Mr Ahmed said if he and his wife had known about them "there would not [have been] a problem".

"If we know who she is going with and then we get to know about who he is and if she likes the person then that's fine," he said.

He added: "It's her life."

He said he did not know where Shafilea got the impression that she was going to be "married off". A marriage proposal for Shafilea had been made by a "distant uncle" in Pakistan on behalf of his son, but it had not been accepted, Mr Ahmed told the court. "We have been fighting to achieve justice for our daughter Shafilea. We wanted to know what happened from day one," an emotional Mr Ahmed told the court.

Describing his daughter to the jury Mr Ahmed said she was talented and athletic.

"Education-wise, she was absolutely brilliant. Her best subject was art, she liked making mosaics," he said.

Mr Ahmed added: "She was a character – very bubbly, very talkative – everything a child should be."

The trial continues.