Shafilea Ahmed's sister talks of 'relief'

Shafilea Ahmed
Image caption Shafilea Ahmed went missing from her Cheshire home in September 2003

Shafilea Ahmed's sister has told a court it was a "relief" to tell police after seven years that her parents had murdered the teenager.

The 17-year-old went missing from her home in Warrington, Cheshire, in 2003 and was found dead six months later.

Asked why she had kept quiet for so long, Alesha Ahmed said: "I think it was not until I went to uni I saw how wrong family life was."

Iftikhar, 52, and Farzana Ahmed, 49, both deny murder.

At Chester Crown Court, Ms Ahmed, 23, said how she had made the disclosure that she witnessed the murders to her solicitor and a police officer while she was in custody after arranging a robbery at the family home in Liverpool Road.

Questioned by Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, about why she had made the claim after all these years, Ms Ahmed 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."

She told the court that when she started university she realised "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," Ms Ahmed said.

"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."

'Haunting her'

Ms Ahmed told the court she had been in a state of "emotional distress" when she made the witness statement about the alleged murder of her sister.

She said it had "been haunting her" for a long time.

Ms Ahmed told the jury her relationship with her parents "completely broke down" after she refused to marry potential suitors they had set up.

"I felt I was going down the same path that my sister was going down," the 23-year-old said.

"The pressure of going to Pakistan, being 21 years old at the time and supposed to be married.

"I think I just absolutely snapped. 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.

'No control'

The jury was told the incident, on 25 August 2010, saw three or four masked men burst into the house and search for money as Ms Ahmed, her mother, brother and sisters were inside.

Ms Ahmed told the court she was arrested after her mother and brother told police the thieves had known her 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."

Shafilea went missing from the family home in September 2003 and her decomposed remains were discovered on the banks of the River Kent in Cumbria in February 2004.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday.

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