Teenager's family held over murder probe 'lies'

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the murder of a 17-year-old student today arrested five members of her family on suspicion of lying to police.

Shafilea Ahmed, from Warrington, Cheshire, went missing last September and her body was found in the Lake District in January.

Her disappearance came just months after a family trip to Pakistan during which the Westernised teenager drank bleach in an apparent attempt to avoid an arranged marriage, prompting speculation that she may have been murdered in a so-called honour killing.

Her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana, were arrested on suspicion of kidnap but no charges were brought against either of them. They were not arrested today.

The five people arrested were members of the teenager's extended family, living in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

The five, said to be of both sexes and a variety of ages, were held on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

They were not being questioned on suspicion of murder.

Detective Chief Inspector Geraint Jones, who is leading the Cheshire Constabulary investigation, said: "All they are being questioned about is the alleged lies that they have said. We won't be questioning them in relation to the murder.

"I would suggest they have lied for one of two reasons. Either they know who the killer is and they are covering up, or the simple fact that they don't want us to pry and speak to people that may cause embarrassment.

"If you lie to the police in a murder investigation, you will be arrested and face the consequences."

Mr Jones said the five arrested were one woman in her 20s, one man in his early 30s, two men in their late 30s and one man in his 60s. All five were taken from Bradford to Cheshire for questioning.

He added: "They are close family members but not Shafilea's parents. They are very close relatives."

It is still not known how Shafilea died but detectives are convinced she was murdered.

Mr Jones said he was keeping Shafilea's parents updated regarding the investigation and had visited them this morning to inform them of the arrests.

However, when asked if he had ruled them out of any direct involvement in the death of their daughter, he replied: "No."

He rejected claims that the police investigation was stereotyping the Asian community by focusing on the family.

He said: "The investigation has always been an open inquiry. We have conducted numerous inquiries and spoken to a lot of people but we can't ignore the fact that Shafilea may have been killed because she didn't conform. That has always been and always will be part of the investigation."