From The Yorkshire Post, The Guardian and The Telegraph
The sister of a Bradford-born schoolgirl who went missing nine years ago saw their parents kill her, a court heard today. Iftikhar and Farzana murdered their 17-year-old daughter because they believed she was bringing shame on the family by having regular contact with westernised boys against their wishes, the court heard.
Today, as her parents Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed went on trial for murder, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told Chester Crown Court they had killed her because she refused to obey them. Her parents controlled her so she didn't have freedom of movement, the court heard. She ran away from home in 2002 and early 2003, but always returned. In the year before she died, the prosecution said, her parents "embarked on a campaign of domestic violence and abuse directed at her and designed to force her to conform so that she behaved in a way that was expected".
Opening the case against the Ahmeds, Mr Edis told the jury of seven men and five women: “The defendants, having spent the best part of 12 months trying to really crush her, realised they were never going to be able to succeed and finally killed her because her conduct dishonoured the family, bringing shame on them.”
The court heard that Shafilea was "recaptured or abducted" by her father outside her school in February 2003 after she had run away from home. Shafilea, he said, was taken to Pakistan later in February 2003 and was "appalled" by the prospect of an arranged marriage to a man in rural Pakistan. She swallowed bleach at her grandparents' house in Pakistan as an act of self-harm or out of desperation. When she returned to the UK, she was taken to hospital as an emergency case and needed regular treatment on a stricture of her oesophagus.
Shafilia’s badly-decomposed body was found nearly five months later beside a river in the Lake District. Mr Edis said police carried out a lengthy investigation but failed to solve the mystery of her death.
However, in August 2010, Shafilia’s younger sister, Rukish, claimed she had been a witness to the killing. It was, said Mr Edis, the final piece in the puzzle. “Until that moment they had no direct evidence of murder,”
Rukish, who has since changed her name to Alesha, originally made the allegation to friends shortly after her sister’s disappearance. But she then retracted the claim and would not repeat it for another seven years.
She did so after being arrested for her part in a robbery at her parents’ home. Miss Ahmed, now 23, had been prosecuted over the crime and pleaded guilty.
Mr Edis told the jury: “You will have to decide whether you can really believe what she said or not. If she is telling the truth, she has lived for the last nine years under the most extraordinary circumstances. If she is telling the truth this whole family, since September 2003, has been living in extraordinary circumstances. What an extraordinary thing to say of your parents, if it is true, that you were there and watching them murder your sister.”
The prosecution alleges that her parents also withdrew money from her bank account that she'd saved from a part-time job.
The Ahmeds deny murder and the trial continues.
Alesha would have been aged 12 at the time. Was this robbery to retrieve money she felt belonged to her and which she feared the parents were witholding to make her also conform?