A COUPLE who killed their “Westernised” teenage daughter because they believed she brought shame on the family were jailed for life today - 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 convicted them of the murder of their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea.
The trial heard that they suffocated the teenager with a plastic bag at the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003.
Bradford-born Shafilea’s father showed no emotion as he was sentenced but his wife sobbed loudly.
Trial judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans told them: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.”
The judge asked them: “What was it that brought you two, her parents, the people who had given her life, to the point of killing her?”
He continued: “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.
“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 wanted your family to live in Pakistan in Warrington.
“Although she went to local schools, you objected to her socialising with girls from what has been referred to as the white community.
“You objected to her wearing western clothes and you objected to her having contact with boys.
“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.”
The judge continued: “A desire that she understood and appreciated the cultural heritage from which she came is perfectly understandable, but an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.
“The conflict between you and her increased in the last year of her life and you tried to impose your cultural values and attitudes on her by intimidation, bullying and a use of physical violence.
“She tried to escape and she was determined to do so because she knew what lay in store for her at your hands - being taken to Pakistan to be ‘sorted out’, i.e. having her Westernised ideas removed - and to be married off.”
Mr Justice Evans then spoke about the night of the murder.
He said: “On the evening of 11th September 2003 you berated her for her behaviour and in temper and frustration you two suffocated her. It was you, Farzana Ahmed, who said to your husband: ‘Finish it here’.
“While I accept that there was no pre-existing plan to kill Shafilea that night, that remark, together with the evidence relating to whether or not Shafilea survived the drinking of bleach, drives me to the conclusion that you two had previously discussed the way that you might ultimately resolve the problem which Shafilea presented for you.
“Your problem was that in what you referred to as your ‘community’, Shafilea’s conduct was bringing shame upon you and your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than your love of your child.
“In order to rid yourselves of that problem, you killed Shafilea by suffocating her in the presence of your other four children.”
The judge said: “I express no concluded view on whether Junyad (their son) played any part in the killing of his sister.
“But I have no doubt that, as the result of the distorted upbringing and values to which you subjected him, he told his surviving sisters within minutes of them seeing Shafilea murdered by you that Shafilea deserved it.
“Thereafter, you got rid of her body by dumping it or having it dumped in undergrowth on a riverbank in Cumbria and you told your children what to tell anybody who asked about the disappearance of Shafilea.
“You killed one daughter, but you have blighted the lives of your remaining children.
“Alesha escaped but she is unlikely to be able to avoid the legacy of her upbringing.
“Mevish, after a period of trying to live independently, was recaptured and brought home, and has since become compliant with your wishes.
“She came to court and was placed in the sad position of having to deny her own words in order to try to help the parents whom she, and no doubt all your surviving children, still care for.”
He added: “As to Junyad, he remains supportive, especially of you Iftikhar Ahmed.
“Whether that is simply out of filial affection or the result of the warped values you instilled in him is impossible to tell.
“There is only one sentence that I can impose upon you and that is a sentence of imprisonment for life.”
Farzana cried as she was led from the court, while Mr Ahmed shook his head in disbelief.
Earlier the couple showed little reaction when a jury of seven women and five men unanimously found them guilty following 11 hours of deliberations.
Iftikhar Ahmed later turned to police officers sitting near the dock and said: “F*** off.”
Mrs Ahmed wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.
Their children Junyad, Mevish and the youngest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, all broke down in tears.
Earlier the trial heard Alesha Ahmed 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.
Mevish, who supported her parents’ defence, said the writings were a “fiction” which Alesha used to base her story on.