A COUPLE who murdered their Yorkshire-born teenage daughter in the belief her “westernised” lifestyle brought shame on the family have been jailed for life – nine years after the brutal killing.
Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, were told they would both serve a minimum of 25 years in prison after a jury at Chester Crown Court yesterday convicted them of the murder of their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea.
The trial heard Shafilea, who was born in Bradford, was suffocated with a plastic bag at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003, in the presence of her four other siblings.
Her badly decomposed body was found in a Cumbrian river nearly six months later.
Sentencing the couple, judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans, QC, said: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.
“Shafilea was a determined, able and ambitious girl who wanted to live a life which was normal in the country and in the town in which you had chosen to live and bring up your children. However, you could not tolerate the life that Shafilea wanted to live.
“You chose to bring up your family in Warrington but, although you lived in Warrington your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those which you imposed upon your children.”
The trial had heard how the parents repeatedly attacked and abused Shafilea as she grew up, leaving her torn between adapting to a western lifestyle and their demands that she wear traditional clothes and obey their wishes.
Her struggles were known to her teachers at school, who had alerted social services and had given her the number for ChildLine when she reported being beaten.
The violence had escalated between 2002 and 2003 during which time Shafilea had run away and sought emergency council accommodation. Her application formed part of the evidence, detailing her reasons for leaving home and the assaults against her.
In early 2003, the teenager was taken by her family to see relatives in Pakistan, where it was suggested she would be married off and not allowed to return home.
In desperation, Shafilea drank from a bottle of bleach, causing severe damage to her throat.
After her condition failed to improve, she returned to the UK and was taken to hospital where she remained for three months.
“She was being squeezed between two cultures, the culture and way of life that she saw around her and wanted to embrace, and the culture and way of life you wanted to impose on her,” Mr Roderick Evans added.
Shafilea’s sister Alesha broke the silence over what had happened, providing chilling testimony to the events of September 11, 2003 when the teenager was murdered.
She told the court that her sister had been picked up from work by her mother who disapproved of her clothes. There was a row at home and her father began beating Shafilea.
She was pushed down onto the sofa, and her mother said: “Just finish it here.”
The couple showed little reaction when the jury unanimously found them guilty following 11 hours of deliberations. Iftikhar Ahmed later swore at police officers sitting near the dock, while his wife sobbed.