Shafilea Ahmed's sister lied 'to cover up for parents'

 

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Shafilea Ahmed's sister told a jury today she lied to police investigating the teenager's disappearance because she was "covering up for her parents".

Alesha Ahmed was continuing her evidence at Chester Crown Court where parents, Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana, 49, deny murdering 17-year-old Shafilea.

The teenager vanished in September 2003 and her decomposed remains were discovered in Cumbria in February 2004.

It was not until last year that Ms Ahmed provided the "final piece of the puzzle" about Shafilea's death, the prosecution say, when she disclosed that she witnessed her parents killing Shafilea at the family home in Liverpool Road, Warrington.

Today, the jury were read passages of Ms Ahmed's first police interview following Shafilea's disappearance.

The witness, who was aged 15 at the time, told officers that she woke up at 7am that morning and saw that Shafilea was gone and that her bag was also missing.

She went on in the interviews to say she did not think her parents had caused any harm to her sister.

Cross-examined about the interview, Tom Bayliss QC, defending Mr Ahmed, said: "You were telling the truth, weren't you?"

Ms Ahmed, now aged 23, replied: "No, I was 15-years-old and I was scared of my parents and had just witnessed a murder actually."

The barrister went on: "Nobody would expect to see (Shafilea) back if they had seen a murder happen.

"But it didn't happen did it?"

Ms Ahmed said: "It did happen and we all saw it."

Mr Bayliss told the court that police asked Ms Ahmed outright if she knew where her sister was.

He added: "The answer to that, according to you, was that Shafilea is dead."

The witness replied: "But was I not telling the truth, I was covering up for my parents."

Questioned about why Ms Ahmed suggested to police that Shafilea may have been with a male friend, the barrister said: "The wicked and cruellest thing you could do in those circumstances, knowing someone is dead, is to lay suspicion on a wholly innocent individual."

Ms Ahmed responded: "I didn't put suspicion on someone else and I think it is wicked and cruel you are saying it yourself."

Last week, Alesha described how her parents pushed Shafilea onto the settee in their house and she heard her mother say "Just finish it here" as they forced a plastic bag into the teenager's mouth and suffocated her in front of their other children.

The couple allegedly murdered their "Westernised" daughter because they believed her conduct was bringing shame on the family, the prosecution say.

Ms Ahmed made the claim about Shafilea's murder when she was in custody after being arrested for organising a robbery at the Ahmed home in August 2010.

Mr Bayliss accused her of lying about the robbery and failing to tell the police who her accomplices were.

He said she was expecting the jury to believe what she was telling them about her parents, but that "time and time again" she had been telling lies.

She replied: "I think it's actually ridiculous that I am on the stand and that my parents don't have the guts to say what they have done.

"They are putting me through all this.

"I have been very kind to them.

"I have been fair in everything I have said," Ms Ahmed said, adding she told the police that the murder was not about Shafilea being forced into an arranged marriage.

"I have not told a lie.

"I have said that I have come here to be fair.

"I think it's out of order that I am being put through this because they can't tell the truth themselves," she said.

The court heard how in the days leading up to the robbery in August 2010 Ms Ahmed - a full time student - was "flush" with money and that £6,500 was paid into one of her bank accounts, on top of cash including student loans being paid into another account.

The jury was told how she paid £1,500 for a Dolce and Gabbana bag as well as "renting" a grey BMW for £400 a week.

She claimed she had saved the money up through a job working at a petrol station, getting paid for doing girls' hair extensions, and from saving on rent when she moved in with her boyfriend.

The court was then told that Ms Ahmed was forced to "pay off" the people who were threatening the robbery with a total of £3,700 in an attempt to stop it from happening.

She said people came to her home, stopped her on her way to work and that once she was driven to Birmingham to draw out money for these "mysterious men".

She said: "I was putting people off to try and stop the robbery... basically I was being pressured.

"Where I was living, people were turning up there. I got myself into a mess and I was having to pay people off."

She told the court that she could not go into the reasons for the pressure and Mr Bayliss accused her of being "evasive".

He said: "You are avoiding naming your accomplices."

She replied: "I don't know who they are. If I knew who they were I would probably be able to help myself a lot more."

The court also heard that Ms Ahmed lied to police by telling them that £2,000 which had been paid out of one of her accounts had gone to charity.

She said: "It was a ridiculous lie. It should not have been told really."

Mr Bayliss said: "It's another ridiculous lie isn't it?"

She replied: "It's a ridiculous lie, yes."

And she admitted that she had still not told the police "exactly why everything happened".

Questioned further about the lead up to the robbery, Ms Ahmed refused to go into detail about the motive and the others involved.

The jury were read a series of text messages she sent to a mobile phone belonging to her mother.

They included one which said: "I'm in Birmingham and can't go until I pay off money because I done dodgy shit and f*****d up."

The text continued: "I need her to lend it to me, come and get me."

Mr Bayliss said "her" was a reference to Mrs Ahmed and the money owed was around £3,900.

Asked by Mr Bayliss why she needed money, the witness told the jury she "wasn't in a position to say".

She said: "It is something which is sensitive to me that I am still dealing with and I am getting a lot of therapy for it."

Asked about the "dodgy shit", Ms Ahmed said Mr Bayliss was taking the messages "out of context".

The barrister accused the witness of making the claim about her parents killing Shafilea in order to avoid a "very, very long" prison sentence.

She replied: "I'm not deciding the sentence.

"I actually asked to be sentenced before this trial but the judge said he wouldn't.

"You need to take it up with the judge if you've got an issue with it.

"At the end of the day, I'm here for justice for my sister.

"You are the one deflecting from my parents, going on about this for two days."

Mr Bayliss said the robbery "was the catalyst" for her revelation.

The jury was sent home and the trial will resume at 10am tomorrow.

PA