Shafilea: Death tore family apart

 

Perhaps the only truthful statement Iftikhar Ahmed made during the trial was when he told the jury that the death of Shafilea "totally destroyed" his family.

This was a case which pitted sibling against sibling and parent against parent.

In the end it was not forensics or a high tech bugging device which convicted Ahmed and his wife, Farzana, it was a simple question for the jury of who to believe.

The horror of witnessing their eldest sister suffocated to death in the family's living room at such a young age must have left deep scars on the Ahmed children

Alesha, 23, whose testimony was key in convicting her parents was just 15 the time.

Mevish, 21, was 12, and brother Junyad was 13.

The youngest Ahmed child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was just seven years old when her parents carried out the brutal killing.

Alesha admitted she got involved in criminal activity and Mevish told the jury she not only sold drugs but became hooked on "uppers" as well.

It was Alesha's organisation of an armed robbery at her own family home - she was alleged by the defence to be in debt to criminal gangs - which led to her remarkable disclosure, after seven years, that her parents killed her beloved older sister.

The bright and pretty student must have wondered as she sat in the police station how she ended up in such a position.

It could only have been a desperate need to escape the clutches of her controlling parents and damaged home life that led her to disclose to her solicitor what she saw on September 11 2003.

Even afterwards she was still torn by family loyalty.

The Ahmeds knew their youngest daughter was the key to both Alesha and Shafilea.

Just as Shafilea fatefully returned home in February 2003, telling her teacher "I've got to go back for my sister", Alesha too almost withdrew her statement in fear of breaking up her family.

But by the time the trial began, she stood alone against her whole family.

It was a story which verged on the insane - that the great unsolved mystery of who killed Shafilea was actually witnessed by her four terrified siblings.

The defence said Alesha was a wicked liar, a criminal who would resort to framing her own parents for murder in the hope of a lighter sentence for the robbery.

The only evidence against the parents, the defence said, was the word of a criminal and pathological liar.

But in a shocking twist which sent the trial in a new direction, Alesha's version of events appeared to have been corroborated by her sister Mevish in writings she gave to a friend in 2008.

The sensational new evidence, which emerged days after the start of the trial, led to the Ahmeds being remanded in custody. And Mevish, a personal loans adviser for a large bank, suddenly became a crucial witness called by the judge.

Mevish ultimately told the jury the writings were a drug-induced "fiction" and her parents played no part in Shafilea's death.

She blamed her sister for her getting involved in drugs and claimed Alesha had used the letters to create her story.

Mevish's evidence turned the tide - but against her parents, and a picture of two traumatised young women emerged.

It was while Farzana Ahmed was in custody that she had a sudden and unexpected change of heart.

She claimed the period on remand was the first time she was "free" of her "omnipresent" husband.

The mother sacked the law firm which jointly represented the couple and told the jury she witnessed her husband beat Shafilea on the night of the alleged murder.

She went on to claim that she believed her husband murdered Shafilea but that she kept the secret because she was "scared".

The prosecution said her story was a lie, that it was simply a "panic" tactic after four weeks in jail and the realisation of what her future held.

Her children Junyad and the youngest Ahmed child told the jury it was their mother who "wore the pants" in that relationship.

The prosecution said Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, told Farzana: "You knew you were going to have to stay and face the music. And that's why you decided to change the tune...because you could see that your husband's lies weren't getting you anywhere.

"So you decided to dump him and save yourself by telling some new lies which you hoped might be better than the old ones."

PA

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