A father has denied murdering his daughter and said the inquiry into the killing has “totally destroyed” his family.
Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, of Warrington, have been on trial at Chester Crown Court for eight weeks charged with killing their daughter Shafilea, 17, in 2003.
Mrs Ahmed has always denied murder, but this week the jury of seven men and five women were told she had changed her account and said she witnessed her husband beat Bradford-born Shafilea on the night of the alleged murder.
She also claimed he had threatened to do the same to her and their other children if she ever asked him what had happened to Shafilea.
But yesterday Ahmed denied ever hurting his daughter or having anything to do with the murder.
Tom Bayliss QC, defending, asked the accused: “What’s it like to stand there accused of murdering your own daughter?”
Ahmed said: “I can’t believe it. It’s devastating.”
“What’s it done to your family?” Mr Bayliss asked.
He replied: “It has actually destroyed my family, totally.”
Earlier Ahmed was asked how he felt about his wife. He said: “I love her to bits.” He said that had not changed, even after she changed her story.
Mr Bayliss said: “Have you ever caused any harm to your daughter Shafilea?” Ahmed said: “No.” Mr Bayliss said: “Were you responsible for the death of your daughter?” He replied: “No.”
Ahmed added: “We were devastated to find out that she had left home in the first place.”
When he was asked how he felt when his daughter’s body was found, he struggled to respond, before adding in a strained voice: “We couldn’t believe it when we heard.”
Shafilea disappeared in September 2003 and her body was found on the banks of the River Kent in Cumbria in February the following year.
The prosecution claim she was killed by her parents because she brought shame on the family by her desire to lead a westernised lifestyle.
Asked to describe Shafilea, Ahmed told the jury his eldest daughter was “talented” and “athletic”.
He added: “Education-wise, she was absolutely brilliant. Her best subject was art, she liked making mosaics.
“She was a character in herself. Very bubbly, very talkative. Everything a child should be.”
He said the family had been “fighting to achieve justice for our daughter Shafilea”.
“We wanted to know what happened from day one,” Ahmed added.
He said he did not initially report Shafilea missing as he did not believe the family would get any help from the police.
It was not until last year that Shafilea’s younger sister, Alesha Ahmed, provided the “final piece of the puzzle” about her death, the prosecution say, when she disclosed that she witnessed her parents killing Shafilea at the family home in Liverpool Road, Warrington.
Alesha described how her parents pushed Shafilea onto the settee in their house and she heard her mother say: “Just finish it here” as they forced a plastic bag into the teenager’s mouth and suffocated her in front of their other children.
Alesha’s version of events appear to have been corroborated in writings that her sister Mevish handed to a friend in 2008 which emerged shortly after the start of the trial.
Mevish told the jury that the writings were “fiction” and her parents played no part in Shafilea’s death.