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."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas