Muslim girl allegedly killed by her parents was just five stone – sister
SHAFILEA Ahmed's weight plunged to just five stone after she drank bleach in fear she was going to be left in Pakistan by her family, her sister told a court today.
Alesha Ahmed was giving evidence in the trial of parents Iftikhar and Farzana, accused at Chester Crown Court of killing 17-year-old Shafilea at the family home in September 2003.
The alleged murder was witnessed by Alesha, then aged 15, who kept the secret for seven years, the jury has been told.
The parents, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, Cheshire, deny murder.
Asked about events leading up Shafilea's disappearance, Alesha, now 23, told the court about the family's trip to see relatives in Pakistan in early 2003.
She said the visit had been marked by discussions of marriage proposals for Shafilea and suggestions that the teenager would not be allowed to return home.
Alesha also said that after Iftikhar, 52, returned to the UK, Shafilea and their mother Farzana, 49, argued when the teenager was seen out of the house without wearing a shawl.
Describing the incident soon afterwards, in which Shafilea drank bleach, Alesha said it was a reaction to fears that she would be left behind in Pakistan.
"There was a general conversation and a remark was made to Shafilea which I think triggered her drinking the bleach," the witness said.
"(My mum) said something along the lines of Shafilea will be staying there and not going back.
"It was done in a humorous way but obviously it was very serious as other people were present."
Shafilea then went to the outside bathroom, Alesha said, and a few minutes later everybody heard a scream.
They all ran outside where Shafilea was holding her stomach and there was a bottle of bleach on the floor with the lid still off.
Alesha said: "Everyone just panicked around us. There were people from next door who came over. My nan and my uncle came over as well.
"My nan was the one who told my uncle to call for help and take her to hospital."
Asked about her mother's reaction, Alesha said she had a "distinct" look on her face before adding: "It was like she was thinking it's better she had done it herself."
Once Shafilea was in hospital, Alesha said their mother was angry because she had "made a scene".
"She had brought shame on the family and my mother told Shafilea to say it was a mistake," Alesha said.
"She told us that she was supposed to drink mouthwash but because it was dark she drank bleach instead."
But when the sisters were alone, Alesha said, there was no pretence.
She added: "I remember saying to Shafilea that I couldn't believe she had drank bleach and that she had done that to herself.
"She said 'What else was I supposed to do?'."
The incident caused severe damage to Shafilea's throat and she was unable to eat properly for some months, Alesha said.
After initially remaining in Pakistan when her mother returned to the UK, Shafilea's condition failed to improve and she was brought home.
The night she returned she was taken to Warrington hospital, where she remained as an inpatient for the next three months.
"I know there was an occasion when she was weighed in hospital which was not too long before she came out and it was around five stone," Alesha said.
Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, told the court yesterday that Alesha witnessed "an act of suffocation" on Shafilea by both her parents.
He said they put their hands over Shafilea's face "to close her airways so she could not breathe".
He added: "She had a bag forced into her mouth."
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, Mr Edis said.
The couple allegedly murdered their "westernised" daughter because they believed her conduct was bringing shame on the family.
The court heard that when Shafilea came out of hospital, her parents told her she could not go back to Great Sankey High School because they believed that was where the "trouble" started in the first place.
Instead she was enrolled at the nearby Priestley Sixth Form College.
Asked by Mr Edis what Shafilea wanted to achieve, Alesha responded: "She wanted to become a lawyer."
She described how her sister had started agreeing more to her parents' demands on her and said the arguments became less frequent.
She took a part-time job after college and was allowed to have a mobile phone but had to leave it in the kitchen when she came home.
Alesha said at one point three of Shafilea's friends from Great Sankey High School came to the family home looking for her.
She said their mother told them she was not in, even though Shafilea was upstairs.
Alesha said her friends would not go away and carried on knocking on the door.
She said: "My mum told her (Shafilea) to come downstairs and then she spoke to her and told her to tell them to go away and that she did not want to speak to them."
Alesha said Shafilea did as she was asked as she "didn't want to cause any more trouble for her friends".
She said after a "week or two" Shafilea managed to put on about half a stone in weight but in September more trouble started between her sister and her mother because of her non-traditional clothes.
They were picking her up from work and Shafilea was wearing a T-shirt and white trousers.
"I think she was starting to go back to how she used to dress, to be honest," Alesha said.
"She (Mrs Ahmed) was not happy about her being in a T-shirt... There was a car next to us which had Asian people in there and so she was not happy that someone had seen her like that."