11 Jul 2012

Shafilea Ahmed’s father denies her murder

The father of teenager Shafilea Ahmed accused of her murder in an ‘honour killing’ breaks down in court as he denies the charge.

Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and his wife Farzana, 49, of Warrington, have been on trial at Chester Crown Court for eight weeks charged with killing 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 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.

Last month, Shafilea’s sister Alesha claimed in court that she saw her parents kill her sister.

But on Wednesday Ahmed denied ever hurting his daughter or having anything to do with the murder.

Asked by Tom Bayliss QC, defending, how he felt about his wife, Ahmed 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.”

He 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 bank of the River Kent in Cumbria the following February.

The prosecution claim she was killed by her parents because she brought shame on the family by her desire to lead a westernised lifestyle.

Mr Bayliss asked how the death of their daughter and the accusation that the couple were responsible had affected the family and his relationship with his wife.

Mr Ahmed replied: “As a couple, it’s devastating, not something we expected.”

The run-up to the trial, he said, had made them “come closer” as a family.

“We have been fighting to achieve justice for our daughter Shafilea,” he added.

“We wanted to know what happened from day one.”

Mr Bayliss asked Mr Ahmed if he thinks he will ever know what happened to Shafilea.

He responded: “We were hoping so but I don’t think we ever will.”

Mr Bayliss asked the defendant about his attitude towards Shafilea’s social life, her friends and boys.

Mr Ahmed said he did not have any problem with his daughter’s friends and that he was not aware of any boys at the time.

Mr Bayliss asked, had he known about boys, what would he have thought?

Mr Ahmed said if he and his wife had known about them “there would not be a problem”.

He added: “If we know who she is going with and then we get to know about who he is and if she likes the person then that’s fine. It’s her life.”

Mr Ahmed said a marriage proposal for Shafilea was made from a “distant uncle” in Pakistan on behalf of his son.

He said he told the relative that Shafilea “was still studying” and they would not discuss it until she had finished her studies.

He added: “And then she decides what the next step is for herself.”

He said he did not know where Shafilea got the impression that she was going to be “married off”.

The case continues.