- Younger sister Alesha told police she saw parents force bag into Shafilea’s mouth and suffocate her
- She was arrested in 2010 for her involvement in a robbery at her parents’ home during which her mother, two sisters and brother were tied up
- Six days later she alleged to police that her parents killed Shafilea
- Shafilea decomposed remains were found in February 2004
- Parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed are accused of killing her in September 2003 but deny murder
- Police placed listening device in the family’s home in November 2003 and heard them telling their children ‘not to say anything’ at school
- Victim ‘drank bleach after being forced to visit Pakistan for to meet future husband in arranged marriage’
By James Tozer
PUBLISHED: 05:52 EST, 22 May 2012 | UPDATED: 18:22 EST, 22 May 2012
The younger sister of a schoolgirl allegedly murdered for defying her strict Muslim parents claims she saw her father stuff a carrier bag into her mouth and suffocate her, a court heard yesterday.
Shafilea Ahmed, 17, was ‘physically abused’ virtually every day, her sister Alesha said, after her parents discovered she was living a ‘secret life’ they did not approve of.
On the night she died, she was wearing white stiletto-heeled boots and had red dye in her hair in defiance of her parents, the court heard.
The teenager was allegedly killed for dishonouring the family by failing to go through an arranged marriage and insisting on pursuing a Westernised lifestyle.
Yesterday the trial of Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, heard the ‘bombshell’ disclosure from her younger sister Alesha – who gave evidence from behind a screen – about the violence Shafilea allegedly suffered at their hands in the run-up to her death.
The court was told that Alesha, who was 15 at the time, witnessed the fatal attack on her sister in September 2003.
But she did not give police the ‘final piece of the puzzle’ until seven years later after being arrested over a robbery at the family home during which her mother, surviving sisters and brother were tied up. Six days later, she alleged to police that her parents had killed Shafilea.
Yesterday Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, said Alesha, who is on witness protection and awaiting sentence for robbery, ‘hasn’t received any promises or indeed any inducement prior to when she first made these allegations.
‘She now finds herself estranged from the family as a result of what she has said. Her life has turned upside down because of what she has said and what she has done.’
Alesha described how her parents suffocated Shafilea with ‘a carrier bag forced into her mouth and then hands over her face to close her airways so she could not breathe’, Mr Edis said.
Alesha then saw their mother in the kitchen ‘sorting through a pile of blankets and sheets’ and holding a roll of black bin bags and two rolls of tape, the jury was told.
‘After that had happened she looked out the window and saw her father with a large object wrapped in bin bags with brown tape around it.’
Shortly afterwards, she saw her father leaving in a car with Shafilea’s body – she assumes – inside, Mr Edis added.
Shafilea had only just started college to study for her A-levels after hospital treatment for deliberately swallowing bleach while staying with her grandparents in rural Pakistan, the court has heard.
On the night Alesha claims her parents killed her sister at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, Shafilea had been picked up by her mother from her evening call centre job, the court was told.
She had been dressed in Western clothing in defiance of her parents’ desire for her to wear traditional dress, Mr Edis told Chester Crown Court.
The following day, Alesha allegedly told friends her father had killed Shafilea and chopped up her body, although she afterwards denied saying it.
However her parents did not report her missing, and the alarm was only raised a week later by an ex-teacher worried about rumours of what had happened.
By contrast, when Shafilea ran away before the trip to Pakistan, they had repeatedly called her mobile and contacted her friends in a bid to find her, Mr Edis said.
Shafilea’s decomposing but intact remains were found on an isolated riverbank 100 miles away in the Lake District five months after she vanished.
The court has been told analysis of the scene suggests she was dumped there shortly after she was allegedly murdered.
‘DRUGGED AND PUT ON A PLANE TO PAKISTAN’
Shafilea Ahmed was drugged by her mother before being put on what was meant to be a one-way trip to Pakistan, the court was told.
Her younger sister Alesha described listening from the stairs on the morning of the flight as an intoxicating drink known as a ‘nasha’ was mixed before Farzana took it to Shafilea’s bedroom.
‘My mum told my sister she’d brought a drink for her,’ she told the jury. ‘I think she just thought my mum was being nice. She drank it all.’
The whole family then travelled to Manchester Airport where Alesha said her sister seemed ‘slow’, ‘agreed with everything’ and had to lean on a luggage trolley.
While Shafilea remained conscious on the flight, in February 2003, it was only after a night’s sleep at her grandfather’s home in Pakistan that it dawned on her what had happened, she said.
Their father threatened to shoot Shafilea if she made a scene, Alesha told the jury. ‘He just said to her, “There is a gun back there, no one would ever know if anything happened to you”.’
Earlier the jury heard it may be significant that Mr Ahmed had shortly beforehand been prescribed sleeping tablets.
The court has been told Shafilea had run away from home on several occasions. Alesha told the jury that after the last incident, she and her brother and other sisters all suspected that her parents were planning to send her to Pakistan for good.
‘When Pakistani families have problems with their children, they feel that taking them to Pakistan will somehow sort the child out,’ she said.
But she insisted there had been no talk of an arranged marriage for Shafilea at that stage, although ‘there were people who wanted to marry her’.
However, in what the prosecution claim was an act of desperation in the face of being pushed into marrying and staying in Pakistan, Shafilea drank a bottle of bleach, causing severe damage to her throat. She was flown home to England for treatment.
The prosecution dismisses claims by her parents that she had mistaken the bottle for mouthwash during a power cut.
Alesha, now 23, yesterday gave evidence about the daily clashes between Shafilea and her parents. Points of conflict with her parents included spending time with white friends, her use of her mobile phone ‘and just generally the clothes she was wearing’, she said.
She said Shafilea liked to dress in a ‘Western way’, wearing jeans, T-shirts and ‘pedal pushers’ rather than the traditional Pakistani outfits her parents wanted.
As a result, Shafilea was subjected to physical abuse. Asked about the frequency, Alesha said: ‘Too often from what I can remember – pretty much every day, or every other day, even if it was arguments or little slaps here and there.’
There was also more serious violence, she added. Alesha described an incident when her sister sat on the floor of the kitchen while both their parents used knives ‘to scare her and threaten her’.
She said: ‘They were just hitting her, it was quite frantic.’ Shafilea ‘was just sat there, taking it, really’. On other occasions, she said, Shafilea would be locked in a spare room and not given food for days at a time for disobeying her parents.
Another point of friction was when Shafilea was surreptitiously in touch with boys, she said. ‘I think that was when the abuse was worst, when they found out about her being in the company of males. I don’t think they wanted other people to know she was doing that.’
Asked about her parents’ religion, Alesha said they were Muslims but said they only really practised the faith after Shafilea’s death. Stressing that her parents’ values were more about Pakistani traditions than Islamic teachings, she told the court: ‘Western culture is a lot more free in terms of the times you can go out, friends you can keep, clothes you can wear – it’s very different.’
She described Pakistani cultural traditions as being ‘restrictive’ as to what was expected of Shafilea and her sisters.
She added: ‘I think because my dad was working more, it was for my mum to lay down the rules in a sense.’
The trial also heard details of conversations between the Ahmeds following Shafilea’s disappearance recorded after police bugged the family home.
Transcripts show they discussed the possibility that they were under surveillance as well as whether police analysis of their cars would reveal where they had been driven.
On one occasion, the jury were told, Mr Ahmed is heard saying ‘even if there is saliva in the car it’s not as though she didn’t sit in the car’.
On another, Mr Ahmed tells his wife the legal system in Britain requires proof, and that without it, even if you killed 40 people, ‘until it is found, they can’t do anything to you’.
Mr Edis said given that Shafilea’s body hadn’t been found at that stage, it was ‘rather odd’ that her parents should be talking in those terms if they were innocent of her murder.
The trial has heard that Shafilea’s death remained a mystery until a breakthrough in 2010 when Alesha was arrested over a robbery at the family home and told of witnessing her killing.
Mr Edis told the jury would have to decide whether this crime – which she has admitted being involved in – had ‘released the blockage’ preventing her telling the truth, or if she had made up her account to protect herself.
‘Either she’s telling the truth, or it’s a wicked lie made up to help herself,’ Mr Edis added.
The couple both deny murder and the case continues.