Parents who suffocated their 'Westernised' teenage daughter in honour killing are found guilty of murder
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- Published on Friday, 03 August 2012 14:46
- Written by Admin
[Daily Mail] - A mother and father have been found guilty of murdering their 'Westernised' teenage daughter in an apparent 'honour killing'. Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, of Warrington, Cheshire, suffocated their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea with a plastic bag.
Mr Ahmed stood impassively as the verdicts were given while his spouse wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.
Missing: Shafilea Ahmed disappeared in September 2003 and her body was found on the bank of the River Kent in Cumbria the following February
But As Mr Ahmed was taken down to the cells to await sentencing later today, he turned to police officers sitting nearby and said: 'F*** off.'
The seven men and five women of the jury returned two unanimous verdicts after deliberating for around 11 hours.
Their children Junyad, Mevish and the youngest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, all broke down in tears as the verdict was read out.
Their sister disappeared in September 2003 but her body was not found until the following February on the bank of the River Kent in Cumbria.
The prosecution at Chester Crown Court claimed Shafilea was killed by her parents because she brought shame on the family by her desire to lead a 'Westernised' lifestyle.
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.'
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Manchester-based Ramadhan Foundation, said: 'Justice has finally been done. It's taken a long time for this case to be resolved so we pay tribute to the police and the courts.
Guilty: Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, of Warrington, Cheshire, suffocated their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea with a plastic bag
'The strong message goes out and should be very clear: if you engage in honour killings, if you engage in forced marriages, you will be caught and brought to justice.'
'Honour killings go against Islam. Islam totally forbids honour killings, it forbids forced marriages and if anybody thinks somehow that they are doing these actions as a result of their faith, then they are seriously misguided. I have spoken to a lot of Muslim scholars and it's very clear that these people should not be behaving in this way.
'We should not be forcing our sons and daughters to marry people.'
Earlier the trial heard Alesha say her parents repeatedly attacked and abused Shafilea as she grew up, torn between the allure of a Western lifestyle and their demands that she wear traditional clothes and agree to an arranged marriage.
Crying in the witness box, Alesha told the trial her parents held a terrified Shafilea down on the settee in their living room as the plastic bag was forced into her mouth.
'You could tell she was gasping for air,' she said before 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.
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.
A family torn apart: The disciplinarian parents whose children turned against them
The 11-week trial became a showdown that pitted sibling against sibling and parent against parent.
But In the end it was not forensics or a high tech bugging device which convicted Ahmed and his wife, Farzana, it was a simple question for the jury of who to believe.
Giving evidence, Shafilea's sister, Alesha, 23, whose testimony was key in convicting her parents sensationally told the court that she and the rest of her siblings witnessed the murder at the family home.
But Taxi driver Mr Ahmed always denied murder, saying Shafilea ran away from home in the middle of the night and he never saw her again.
Mrs Ahmed also denied murder but told the jury she saw her husband beat her eldest child and that she believed he killed her.
The youngest Ahmed child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was just seven years old when her parents carried out the brutal killing.
Alesha admitted she got involved in criminal activity and Mevish told the jury she not only sold drugs but became hooked on 'uppers' as well.
It was Alesha's organisation of an armed robbery at her own family home - she was alleged by the defence to be in debt to criminal gangs - which led to her remarkable disclosure, after seven years, that her parents killed her beloved older sister.
It could only have been a desperate need to escape the clutches of her controlling parents and damaged home life that led her to disclose to her solicitor what she saw on September 11 2003.
Even afterwards she was still torn by family loyalty.
The Ahmeds knew their youngest daughter was the key to both Alesha and Shafilea.
Just as Shafilea fatefully returned home in February 2003, telling her teacher 'I've got to go back for my sister', Alesha too almost withdrew her statement in fear of breaking up her family.
But by the time the trial began, she stood alone against her whole family.
Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were two traditionalist disciplinarians who had very fixed ideas about how their children, particularly their daughters, should behave.
If they did not conform to their ways, they would be punished.
That was the way they were brought up in the small village of Uttam, Pakistan, and that was the way they would bring up their children in Warrington, Cheshire.
Shafilea, their eldest daughter, was the first to have her head turned by the ways of the West.
Growing up in the UK, she liked the taste of freedom.
Like most teenage girls she liked make-up, high-heels, clothes and boys, and continually clashed with her parents as she struggled to establish her independence.
It was a fight she would ultimately lose, as Iftikhar and Farzana proved their fear of shame far outweighed their feelings of love for their first-born child when they killed her in cold blood in what should have been a safe haven - the family home.
Mr and Mrs Ahmed are first cousins and Sunni Muslims who grew up living next door to each other in a village with a population of about 3,000.
They were joined together in an arranged marriage - or Rishta - which was organised when they were very young and without their permission.
They come from a family of farmers who traditionally tended wheat and sugar cane crops on their 50 acres of land.
It was their loyalty to their family in Pakistan and the family's need to cling on to that land, which the families jointly owned, which seemed to fuel the Ahmeds' desire to marry Shafilea off to a cousin within the extended family.
During his cross-examination of Farzana Ahmed, Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, accused the defendant of being more worried about her family in Pakistan and of land and property than about protecting her daughter's life.
He said: 'That's exactly what this case is about, isn't it? You thought that things in the village in Pakistan were actually more important than Shafilea's life.'
Mr Edis said it was the fact Shafilea was from Warrington and did not share the family's traditional values which 'threatened' them.
Mr Ahmed's uncle, Abdul Razaq, 65, gave evidence via a video-link from Karachi, Pakistan, with the aid of an interpreter.
It was Mr Razaq who first called Mr Ahmed to inquire about his son marrying one of Mr Ahmed's daughters.
He said: 'I called him because I had a son and I called him with a proposal of marriage for one of his four daughters because he had four daughters and I said 'Give me one of your daughters' hands in marriage'.'
Mr Razaq claimed that Mr Ahmed told him his daughters were not old enough to marry and were studying.
But the prosecution said this was their plot to marry Shafilea off in Pakistan, a plot that was spoiled when the desperate teenager drank bleach in protest.
Mr Edis put it to Mr Razaq that after Shafilea drank the bleach in Pakistan she became 'too ill' to get married and was sent home.
He added: 'In your culture if the parents agree that their daughter will marry but that doesn't happen, is that something which they should be ashamed of?'
He responded: 'Yes, that's right. It is shameful.'