Parents 'killed daughter by forcing bag into her mouth'

Sister of 'honour killing' victim tells jury of years of abuse suffered at home during feud over lifestyle
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The Independent Online

A Muslim teenager was suffocated by her parents forcing a carrier bag into her mouth and smothering her before disposing of her body, a court heard yesterday.

Shafilea Ahmed was threatened with a knife, a gun and locked in a room for days without food during years of abuse as she repeatedly clashed during family rows over her lifestyle, her younger sister claimed.

Giving evidence from behind a curtain on the second day of her parents' trial for murder at Chester Crown Court, Alesha Ahmed said Shafilea, 17, was drugged before being taken to Pakistan, where she feared she would never be allowed to return.

Alesha described how relations between her sister and her parents, who were born in Pakistan, deteriorated as they argued over her choice of clothes, her mobile phone and, particularly, her male friends leading up to her death in September 2003. Prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, said Alesha, then aged 15, had witnessed her elder sister's final moments at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire. She watched as Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, who both deny murder, forced a bag into her mouth and then used their hands "to close her airways so she could not breathe".

Despite telling friends that her parents had killed Shafilea, it was not until 2010 that Alesha chose to reveal what she knew to police. The "bombshell" followed a break-in at the Ahmeds' house in which members of the family were tied up by intruders, the prosecution said.

Mr Edis said it was up to the jury to decide whether Alesha – who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to the robbery – was telling the truth or a "wicked lie made up to help herself".

He said: "She talks about looking into the kitchen and seeing her mother sorting through a pile of blankets and sheets. She saw a roll of black bin bags and two rolls of tape – wide brown tape and some black tape. After that had happened she looked out of the window and saw her father with a large object wrapped in bin bags with brown tape wrapped round it. She assumed that was the body of her sister."

Shafilea's decomposed remains were discovered 100 miles away in Cumbria five months later. Alesha described how her mother took the lead in discipline because she was at home, while her father worked long hours as a taxi driver. Ms Ahmed, 49, wiped away tears as she listened while Mr Ahmed, 52, stared straight ahead during their daughter's evidence.

Alesha wept as she recalled how on one occasion the Ahmeds had threatened Shafilea with a knife as she sat on the floor of the kitchen. "They were just hitting her," Alesha said. "It was quite frantic... it was just really out of control. She just sat there taking it really."

When they found out she had been seeing a boy one time she was locked in the garage conversion, abused and not fed for "two or three days", Alesha said. "To them it was something that was not accepted on the culture side of things. They would not want people to know she was doing that."

The trial continues.