Tragedy of teenager ‘caught between cultures’

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SHAFILEA Ahmed had been missing for nearly four months when detectives hosted a press conference saying they believed she was dead.

They asked Shobna Gulati, who plays Sunita in Coronation Street, to read two of the poems written by the teenager.

In one she wrote: “I don’t pretend like we’re the perfect family no more. Desire to live is burning. My stomach is turning. But all they think about is honour. I was like a normal teenage kid.”

Gulati said at the time: “I think she is definitely looking as though she is trapped between two cultures. She wants to express something and is unable to do that.”

Despite Miss Ahmed’s parents, Iftikhar Ahmed, 44, and Farzana, 41, being initially arrested on 
suspicion of kidnapping their daughter, nobody knew her 
grim fate.

Her parents had not even reported her missing to the police, with teachers only contacting officers after they overheard her younger siblings discussing it.

Ahmed denied that he had harmed his daughter.

He claimed no arranged marriage had been planned and a trip to Pakistan shortly before she disappeared was only a family holiday.

“I love my daughter,” he said. “Why would I ever want to do anything to hurt her? The police are trying to frame the family.”

Officers investigating the teenager’s disappearance were so convinced her parents had killed her, however, they “bugged” the family home.

A covert listening device was placed in the family home in November 2003.

It was in February 2004, following a spell of heavy flooding in Cumbria, that police were alerted to the corpse in the River Kent, near Kendal.

The body was that of a young woman, aged 17 to 23, about 5ft 2ins and slim.

Cumbria Police warned at the time it was so badly decomposed it could take up to 10 days to identify it through DNA tests.

Two weeks after the discovery, Miss Ahmed’s parents, who were still on police bail, identified a gold zigzag bracelet and blue topaz ring found on the body.

The couple were released without charge in June 2004 when the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence against them.

But detectives continued to build a case.

In January 2008, after a four-day inquest, South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, saying he believed she was probably murdered.

Police swooped again in 2010, arresting Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed in January on suspicion of murdering their daughter.

The accused couple were first presented in the dock at Halton Magistrates’ Court in Runcorn, Cheshire, in September last year.

They continued to vigorously deny any involvement.