Shafilea Ahmed 'weighed only five stone' after drinking bleach 'in fear'


Shafilea Ahmed's weight
plunged to just five stone after she drank bleach in fear she was going
to be left in Pakistan by her family, her sister told a court today.

Alesha Ahmed was giving evidence in the trial of parents Iftikhar and Farzana, accused at Chester Crown Court of killing 17-year-old Shafilea at the family home in September 2003.

The alleged murder was witnessed by Alesha, then aged 15, who kept the secret for seven years, the jury has been told.

The parents, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, Cheshire, deny murder.

Asked about events leading up Shafilea's disappearance, Alesha, now 23, told the court about the family's trip to see relatives in Pakistan in early 2003.

She said the visit had been marked by discussions of marriage proposals for Shafilea and suggestions that the teenager would not be allowed to return home.

Alesha also said that after Iftikhar, 52, returned to the UK, Shafilea and their mother Farzana, 49, argued when the teenager was seen out of the house without wearing a shawl.

Describing the incident soon afterwards, in which Shafilea drank bleach, Alesha said it was a reaction to fears that she would be left behind in Pakistan.

"There was a general conversation and a remark was made to Shafilea which I think triggered her drinking the bleach," the witness said.

"(My mum) said something along the lines of Shafilea will be staying there and not going back.

"It was done in a humorous way but obviously it was very serious as other people were present."

Shafilea then went to the outside bathroom, Alesha said, and a few minutes later everybody heard a scream.

They all ran outside where Shafilea was holding her stomach and there was a bottle of bleach on the floor with the lid still off.

Alesha said: "Everyone just panicked around us. There were people from next door who came over. My nan and my uncle came over as well.

"My nan was the one who told my uncle to call for help and take her to hospital."

Asked about her mother's reaction, Alesha said she had a "distinct" look on her face before adding: "It was like she was thinking it's better she had done it herself."

Once Shafilea was in hospital, Alesha said their mother was angry because she had "made a scene".

"She had brought shame on the family and my mother told Shafilea to say it was a mistake," Alesha said.

"She told us that she was supposed to drink mouthwash but because it was dark she drank bleach instead."

But when the sisters were alone, Alesha said, there was no pretence.

She added: "I remember saying to Shafilea that I couldn't believe she had drank bleach and that she had done that to herself.

"She said 'What else was I supposed to do?'."

The incident caused severe damage to Shafilea's throat and she was unable to eat properly for some months, Alesha said.

After initially remaining in Pakistan when her mother returned to the UK, Shafilea's condition failed to improve and she was brought home.

The night she returned she was taken to Warrington hospital, where she remained as an inpatient for the next three months.

"I know there was an occasion when she was weighed in hospital which was not too long before she came out and it was around five stone," Alesha said.

Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, told the court yesterday that Alesha witnessed "an act of suffocation" on Shafilea by both her parents.

He said they put their hands over Shafilea's face "to close her airways so she could not breathe".

He added: "She had a bag forced into her mouth."

The teenager's decomposed remains were discovered in Cumbria in February 2004 but it was not until 2010 that Alesha provided the "final piece of the puzzle" about her death, Mr Edis said.

The couple allegedly murdered their "westernised" daughter because they believed her conduct was bringing shame on the family.

The court heard that when Shafilea came out of hospital, her parents told her she could not go back to Great Sankey High School because they believed that was where the "trouble" started in the first place.

Instead she was enrolled at the nearby Priestley Sixth Form College.

Asked by Mr Edis what Shafilea wanted to achieve, Alesha responded: "She wanted to become a lawyer."

She described how her sister had started agreeing more to her parents' demands on her and said the arguments became less frequent.

She took a part-time job after college and was allowed to have a mobile phone but had to leave it in the kitchen when she came home.

Alesha said at one point three of Shafilea's friends from Great Sankey High School came to the family home looking for her.

She said their mother told them she was not in, even though Shafilea was upstairs.

Alesha said her friends would not go away and carried on knocking on the door.

She said: "My mum told her (Shafilea) to come downstairs and then she spoke to her and told her to tell them to go away and that she did not want to speak to them."

Alesha said Shafilea did as she was asked as she "didn't want to cause any more trouble for her friends".

She said after a "week or two" Shafilea managed to put on about half a stone in weight but in September more trouble started between her sister and her mother because of her non-traditional clothes.

They were picking her up from work and Shafilea was wearing a T-shirt and white trousers.

"I think she was starting to go back to how she used to dress, to be honest," Alesha said.

"She (Mrs Ahmed) was not happy about her being in a T-shirt... There was a car next to us which had Asian people in there and so she was not happy that someone had seen her like that."


FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam