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UK honour killing: Pak-origin parents jailed for life

By Prasun Sonwalkar
August 03, 2012 22:44 IST

In a widely followed case of honour killing, a Pakistan-origin couple was on Friday jailed for life after being held guilty of murdering their teenaged daughter who allegedly brought shame to the family due to her westernised lifestyle.

Shafilea Ahmed, 17, was missing from her home in Warrington, Cheshire, in 2003 and was found dead on the banks of the River Kent in Cumbria six months later. Her parents, Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, and Farzana Ahmed, 49, had denied her murder but the jury at Chester Crown Court on Friday returned guilty verdicts against them both after a three-month trial.

They must serve a minimum of 25 years before being considered for parole. Judge Roderick Evans told the couple, "Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.... For me this is not an 'honour killing', it's a clear case of murder."

After the trial, the police described the killing as a 'vile and disgraceful act against someone they should have been very proud of'. A taxi driver, Ahmed had earlier claimed that Shafilea ran away from home in the middle of the night and that he never saw her again.

The two had suffocated Shafilea with a plastic bag in an apparent 'honour killing' because she had allegedly brought shame on the family. Shafilea's sister Alesha, had told the jury that her parents had pushed her on to the settee in their house and she heard her mother say 'just finish it here'.

The parents had often clashed Shafilea over her westernised lifestyle, and had objected to her wearing the same clothes as her white friends, rather than traditional Pakistani dress. In 2003, she was allegedly forced to travel to Pakistan, where she was expected to marry a man more than 10 years her senior.

In desperation Shafelia swallowed bleach badly burning her throat and causing the man to call off the marriage, declaring she was 'damaged goods'.

She returned to Britain but went missing from the family home in September 2003. Her parents were arrested in connection with the murder but police were unable to find enough evidence to prosecute.

But the breakthrough came in 2010 when another of their daughters, Alesha, was arrested for organising a robbery at the family home. Alesha confessed to police that she had witnessed her parents attack and kill Shafilea.

Prasun Sonwalkar in London