Shafilea Ahmed 'murdered out of shame'
Monday 21 May 2012
A couple murdered their "westernised" teenage daughter because they believed her conduct was bringing shame on the family, a court heard today.
The decomposed remains of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed were discovered in Cumbria in February 2004.
As her parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed went on trial for murder, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told Chester Crown Court they had killed her because she refused to obey them by agreeing to an arranged marriage.
The court was also told that the case only came to trial after Shafilea's sister, Alesha, confessed to seeing the murder taking place.
The court heard that Alesha kept silent for seven years and only told police after she was arrested for taking part in a robbery at her parents' home in Liverpool Road, Warrington.
Mr Edis told the jury of seven men and five women: "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."
Ahmed, 52, and his 49-year-old wife, deny murdering Shafilea.
Mr Edis said: "The prosecution alleges that she (Shafilea) was murdered by the two defendants, her parents, at the family home on the night of September 11/12, September 2003. She was 17 years old."
He said the case had taken a "very long time" to be brought to trial because it was not until August 2010 that a witness to the crime came forward.
Mr Edis said: "This witness is Alesha Ahmed, Shafilea's younger sister."
He said Alesha witnessed the killing of her sister by their parents "acting together".
"This evidence was the final piece of the puzzle which the police had been trying to solve for many years.
"Until that moment they had no direct evidence of murder," he added.
Mr Edis said that, after witnessing the murder, Alesha lived in a family "under great strain" and that as she grew up she suffered from "divided loyalties".
The court heard that Shafilea had suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her parents in the 12 months leading up to her disappearance in 2003.
Mr Edis said: "The prosecution say during that year her parents embarked upon a campaign of domestic violence and abuse designed to force her to conform so that she would behave in the way that was expected of her.
"She was a thoroughly Westernised young British girl of Pakistani origin. Her parents had standards which she was reluctant to follow."
The court heard that the defendants put their daughter under "intense pressure" and were seeking to control her.
"She was unwilling to do this and she resisted," Mr Edis said.
The court heard that police placed a covert listening device in the home of the Ahmeds in November 2003 when Shafilea was still believed to be missing.
Mr Edis said the conversations which were recorded were "surprising" as they were discussing whether the police would have them under surveillance.
He said: "They are discussing what sort of surveillance tactics the police could be using in order to investigate them and they are talking in very cautious terms."
Mr Edis said they were "rather odd conversations" for people to be having if they are completely innocent.
In conversations with her other children, Mrs Ahmed can be heard warning them not to say anything at school.
The defendants refer to one of their children as a "good boy" but then say if he talked he could "have us put inside".
Mrs Ahmed was also recorded saying to her son Junyade: "If the slightest thing comes out of your mouth, we will be stuck in real trouble. Remember that."
The court heard how Shafilea was taken to Pakistan by her family in 2003 in an attempt to "force" her into an arranged marriage.
Mr Edis said she drank bleach on this trip as her parents tried to "force" and "bully" her into an arranged marriage.
The defendants later claimed Shafilea drank the bleach by mistake, thinking it was mouthwash.
Mr Edis said: "You don't drink bleach by accident. Bleach smells strong. It doesn't smell of mouthwash."
When she was brought back to the UK she was treated at Warrington Hospital where she spoke to a fellow patient named Foisa Aslam.
Ms Aslam later told police that she asked Shafilea why she drank the bleach.
Shafilea replied: "You don't know what they did to me there."
The court heard that Shafilea told Ms Aslam that the Ahmeds had accepted a rishta (or formal offer of marriage) for her.
Mr Edis said: "That was why she said she drank the bleach."
She said she "didn't even love the guy".
"She wanted to get out of there but they had taken her passport from her," he added.
The jury was sent home for the day and the trial will resume tomorrow at 10.30am.
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