THE sister of Bradford-born teenager Shafilea Ahmed told a jury today it was a “relief” to tell police after seven years that her parents had murdered her.
Alesha Ahmed was giving evidence at Chester Crown Court where her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana, are accused of murdering 17-year-old Shafilea at the family home in September 2003.
The teenager’s decomposed remains were discovered in Cumbria in February 2004 but it was not until 2010 that Alesha provided the “final piece of the puzzle” about her death, the court has heard.
Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana, 49, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, Cheshire, deny murder.
Alesha, 23, disclosed that she witnessed the murder to her solicitor and a police officer while she was in custody after arranging a robbery at the family home in Liverpool Road, Warrington.
Questioned by Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, about why she made the claim after all these years, Alesha said: “I think at that point I was really suffering with the family (and) the build-up to the robbery.
“It all got too much, and to be honest I think it was a relief more than anything to be able to tell someone finally.”
Asked why she had kept quiet for all those years, she replied: “I think it was not until I went to uni I saw how wrong family life was.
“When you get used to something, it becomes normal and that’s when I saw it wasn’t normal, really.
“I think what happened to my sister was wrong but because it’s your parents you think it’s normal because you still love them.
“I think at uni I did feel the way my sister had - you want to fit in with everyone else but you are still being forced to live in a different way.
“I think that’s what made me crack.”
Alesha, who gave evidence from behind a screen, said she had been in a state of “emotional distress” when she made the witness statement about the alleged murder.
She said: “I just had to let it out.
“It has been haunting me for a long time.”
Alesha told the court she had been living “just like a Western student” while at university and returning to her parents’ home at weekends and during holidays.
During this time, her relationship with her parents had been “strained”, she said.
“Especially when I went to uni at first, because they wanted me to be closer to home,” the witness added.
“I felt I was going down the same path that my sister was going down.
“The pressure of going to Pakistan, being 21-years-old at the time and supposed to be married.
“It was just a lot of pressure.”
Alesha said her parents had set up a number of potential suitors but she refused to marry “someone she didn’t know” and her relationship with the couple “completely broke down”.
She said: “I think I just absolutely snapped and it was just hard.
“It was either living the way they wanted me to live or live on my own, both were a struggle.”
She said she “wasn’t thinking properly” when she arranged for the robbery to take place.
The jury were told the incident, on August 25 2010, saw three or four masked men burst into the house and search for money as Alesha, her mother, brother and sisters were inside.
“There were just people shouting and asking where the money was and I was dragged upstairs while people were searching the whole place,” Alesha said.
She told the court she was arrested after her mother and brother told police the thieves had known Alesha’s name.
“I was the one who made contact with them to come over,” she said.
“However, as you can see from events I had no control and they did turn on me as well.
“I think I had just had enough.
“My mental state wasn’t very good, being between the two cultures (and) trying to please everyone.
“I was doing things out of character, drinking at uni and the robbery I committed.
“I was not being myself any more.”
Yesterday, Alesha described how her parents pushed Shafilea on to 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.
The couple allegedly murdered their “Westernised” daughter because they believed her conduct was bringing shame on the family, the prosecution said.
The case was adjourned until Monday.