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Parents of Shafilea Ahmed found guilty of her 'honour' killing - August-03-12
Source: The Telegraph (Telegraph Staff)
Iftikhar Ahmed and his wife Farzana were convicted of the honour killing today following a three month trial at Chester Crown Court.
The court had been told how the couple from the same village in rural Pakistan had jointly killed their 17-year-old daughter after claiming her behaviour had brought the family into disrepute.
They had clashed with their eldest daughter over her westernised lifestyle and objected to her wearing the same clothes as her white friends, rather than traditional Pakistani dress.
In 2003, months before she disappeared she was forced to travel to Pakistan, where she was expected to marry a man more than ten years her senior.
In desperation Shafilea swallowed bleach, badly burning her throat and causing the man to call off the marriage. He declared she was "damaged goods".
She returned to Britain but went missing from the family home in Warrington in September 2003.
Her parents were arrested in connection with the murder but police were unable to find enough evidence to prosecute.
However the breakthrough came in 2010 when another of their daughters, Alesha, was arrested for organising a robbery at the family home.
Under questioning she confessed to police that she had witnessed her parents attack and kill her older sister.
Both parents denied murder claiming they believed Shafilea had run away from home.
But part way through the trial, Farzana, 49, changed her account claiming she had seen her husband attack Shafilea in the kitchen of their home.
She told the jury she had tried to intervene but her husband had attacked her.
Iftikhar Ahmed stood impassively as the verdicts were given, while his wife wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.
Their children Junyad, Mevish and the youngest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, all broke down in tears.
Mevish Ahmed put her head in her hands and wept as the judge began discussing sentencing.
The seven men and five women of the jury returned two unanimous verdicts after deliberating for around 11 hours.
The trial had heard how both parents repeatedly attacked their eldest daughter as she was growing up because she opposed their attempts to force her to live a traditional Pakistani lifestyle.
Sobbing in the witness box, Alesha told the trial how in September 2003 things had come to a head during a row over Shafilea's clothing.
She said her parents had held the terrified teenager down forcing a plastic bag into her mouth.
She told the jury: "You could tell she was gasping for air," adding that Shafilea "wet herself because she was struggling so much".
Asked what happened next, she told the court: "That was it, she was gone."
Alesha went on to describe how the other children ran upstairs to their bedrooms in shock and she saw her father carry Shafilea's body to the car wrapped in a blanket.
The children were later told to say nothing to the authorities amid a fear that they would suffer the same fate as their sister.
Shafilea's decomposed remains were discovered in the River Kent in Cumbria in February 2004.
But it was not until 2010 that Alesha provided the "final piece of the puzzle" about her death, the prosecution said.
Alesha's version of events was corroborated in writings her younger sister Mevish gave to her friend Shaheen Munir in 2008, which emerged shortly after the start of Alesha's evidence.
Mevish, who supported her parents' defence, said the writings were a "fiction" which Alesha used to base her story on.
Speaking after the verdicts, Shafilea's close friend, Melissa Powner, read a statement to the media in which she paid tribute to the teenager and spoke about the pain of having to watch as her killers roamed free.
Miss Powner said: "We have waited for this day for many years. We have watched as her killers roamed free.
"Yet today we heard those important words - words that have finally brought our friend the justice she deserves.
"Shafilea was a caring, high-spirited and brave young lady - who, even in her toughest times, always strived to remain positive and hopeful that one day she too would be able to live the peaceful and happy life that she deserved.
"Shafilea was an amazing friend, who, no matter what her own situation was, would always strive to look out for others - a quality that we truly miss.
"We would cry together, laugh together and even on the odd occasion would sit, rushing some last-minute homework before next period (but that was not very often, as she was usually the goodie two-shoes that completed it on time!).
"Shafilea had a great sense of humour, a fun personality and great smile - and, although a cliched saying, she really could light up a room with her presence; therefore, I believe I speak for many when I say she is and always will be sadly missed."
She added: "If there is one thing that we pray will come from this, it is that her beautiful face and tragic story will inspire others to seek help and make them realise that this kind of vile treatment, no matter what culture or background they are from, is not acceptable and there is a way out."
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