Shafilea Ahmed's sister stands by statement

 

Shafilea Ahmed's sister has told a jury that her parents played no part in the teenager's death.

Mevish Ahmed, 21, was giving evidence for a third day in the trial of parents Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana, 49, who are accused of murdering 17-year-old Shafilea at home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003.

Cross-examined by Tom Bayliss QC, defending taxi driver Mr Ahmed, his daughter said she stood by her statements to police in December 2003, when Shafileawas missing.

Mr Bayliss said: "The police officer asked you did you think your mum and dad were involved in Shafilea's disappearance and could they be involved in any way.

"The 12-year-old you said no, what does the 21-year-old you say?"

Miss Ahmed replied: "No, still."

"And they weren't were they?," Mr Bayliss went on.

"No," Miss Ahmed, a personal loans advisor for a large bank, said.

The body of Shafilea, 17, was found on the bank of the River Kent in Cumbria in February 2004.

Another sister, Alesha, 23, earlier told Chester Crown Court the parents pushed Shafilea on to the settee in their house and she heard her mother say "Just finish it here" in Urdu as they forced a plastic bag into the teenager's mouth and suffocated her in front of their other children.

The jury has also seen extracts of writings made by Miss Ahmed and given to a friend, Shahin Munir, which appeared to corroborate Alesha's accusation.

Miss Ahmed has described the documents as "free writing" and said they were all pieces of "fiction".

Asked how she felt about the writings appearing to implicate her parents, Miss Ahmed said: "I feel like they are being blamed for something they have not done.

"I couldn't live with myself if, and obviously (the writings) have been taken out of context, they went down for something they didn't do.

"My sister's killer is still out there.

"I'm sorry that I wrote this, it was just a story and I did not think it would be taken out of context."

The couple, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, deny murder.

Miss Ahmed told the jury that Alesha had known about her writings and their content.

She said her sister was present when some of the "fiction" was written.

She was asked by trial judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans why she had not told the defence solicitors about the writings when Alesha made her accusation and their parents were charged.

She said: "To me it was just my writings. Obviously I know there is some similarity but it was my mistake at the time.

"Obviously I should have."

Miss Ahmed also told the jury that while Shafilea was missing and following the discovery of the body there had been much scrutiny of the family.

She said: "It's been hard. There has been a lot of media attention from day one."

She said the media had "been on their case" and the family had not been able to "just sit there and have time to ourselves".

She agreed with Mr Bayliss when she said people at school and work had "gossiped" about Shafilea and the family.

She added: "Yes, it was hard. People have their opinions and obviously it wasn't true but people read things in the media and take their word for it."

Miss Ahmed said she felt the media was "trying to blame all the family" for her sister's death.

"I don't think it was just targeted at Mum and Dad - they were trying to say we were all lying," she said.

She told the court she had received a police caution for theft following a "misunderstanding" in a branch of Debenhams department store.

She also said she and Alesha had been involved in drug dealing in the past.

She said: "Me and Alesha were trying to raise money because, at the time, Alesha was at university and she was getting money from Mum and Dad but she said that wasn't enough.

"So we decided to do it together."

Miss Ahmed told the court she and her sister sold drugs to "people at college" and Alesha's "friends at uni".

She said that, while Alesha never took drugs, she had used cocaine and "happy pills" because she "thought it was cool at the time".

She no longer takes drugs, Miss Ahmed added.

Giving evidence from behind a curtain, Miss Munir, 22, said she contacted police on May 29 this year, shortly after the trial started, after discussing the case with her mother.

She told police she had information "which could help the case" and was interviewed about what she knew.

She said she became upset during the interview and "ran out" before completing her statement.

Questioned by Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, she said: "I handed over what Mev gave me four years ago. Descriptions of what happened on the night her sister died.

"I promised Mev four years ago that I would never tell anybody and I got upset because I had broken my promise to her."

Miss Munir, a psychology student, added: "I knew deep down it was the right thing to do and I felt for me to sit there and watch this happen and not say anything would make me just as bad.

"And that's how I felt."

Although the documents, which the prosecutors say are letters and Miss Ahmed described as "free writing" and "fiction", were later destroyed by Miss Ahmed, her friend had kept copies, the jury heard.

She said: "I knew once Mev had ripped them up she wouldn't want to talk about it again and Shafilea shouldn't be forgotten."

The court heard that Miss Munir also kept a diary in which she recorded her daily life.

In an entry on August 8 2008, she wrote about a discussion she had with Miss Ahmed in a park.

Miss Munir told the jury: "(Miss Ahmed) told me about her life and she told me what had happened in her sister's life and specifically what happened the night she died."

Miss Munir said Miss Ahmed told her she was beaten by her parents and "constantly watched and checked up on".

She also said Miss Ahmed told her that on the night Shafilea died there had been a row because the teenager had forgotten her coat and was just wearing a T-shirt when she was collected from work.

When they got home, Miss Munir told the court Miss Ahmed had told her: "Her dad started beating her and started hitting her and (Shafilea) could not fight back.

"She said he was punching her, he just kept going and going.

"(Mevish) said she did try to intervene but her mother knocked her back."

Miss Munir said Miss Ahmed told her her father had got a plastic bag and "he used it to suffocate Shafilea".

Miss Munir said Miss Ahmed told her that after Shafilea was dead, "her dad had taken the body in a suitcase and the next morning the suitcase was empty so she knew the body was gone".

"You could tell, just from the way she talked and the way she behaved, that she wasn't lying," Miss Munir said.

"She was frightened the same thing would happen to her.

"I felt like it was my responsibility to help her and make sure nothing ever happened to her."

In other conversations, Miss Munir said: "She disclosed to me that she was on drugs because she couldn't cope at home and it helped block things out."

The trial was adjourned and Miss Munir will continue her evidence tomorrow.

PA

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