Shafilea Ahmed: sisters who witnessed a murder
She did so, she said, because she felt haunted by what she had seen.
Alesha, by then 21, gave her account to detectives while being questioned about being the insider in a robbery at the Ahmeds family home.
Until then police had failed despite smuggling a listening device into the house – to gather enough evidence to justify arresting the couple on murder charges.
For them Alesha was the final piece in the jigsaw that would enable them to bring the Ahmeds to justice.
Even at the couple s trial Alesha she was still so terrified of them that she gave evidence from behind a screen.
I think I had just had enough, she told the jury. My state of mind was not very good at the time. I was living between two cultures and trying to please everyone.
“It was not me any more and I was doing things which were out of character – like turning to drink at university.
I was not being myself any more and I just let it out. What happened to my sister had haunted me for a long time.
She went on: It was when I went to university that I saw how wrong our family life was. When you get used to something, it becomes normal.
When it s your own parents you don t see things like that because you still love them.
At university I think I felt like my sister. I wanted to fit in with everyone else but I was being forced to live in a different way and that is what made me crack.
There is constant pressure to fit in with the rest of people but you just can’t.”
She refused to give police the names of her accomplices in the robbery in August 2010, but told detectives: I contacted them, it was my responsibility.”
At the time she was struggling financially and her parents were trying to pressure her into an arranged marriage with a man from Bradford. There was also pressure on her to go to Pakistan.
“I felt like I was going down the same path as my sister had gone down in terms of going to Pakistan, in terms of being 21 and supposed to be married.
It was just a lot of pressure. I was struggling with the family situation in the build-up to the robbery. It all got too much and it was a relief to be able to tell someone finally.”
Her name has not always been Alesha. Her parents called her Rukish at birth, but she felt such disgust for them that she decided to change it by deed poll.
Mevish, the sister who stayed loyal to her parents
By contrast, Mevish Ahmed stayed loyal to her parents to the end.
Detectives are convinced she knew they were guilty all along, but was too frightened to speak out against their distorted code of honour .
It emerged only during the trial that she had written a graphic account of the murder in her diary.
In a moment of weakness, she had confided in a close friend, Shahin Munir, telling her how frightened she was of her parents and giving her the diary for safekeeping.
Four years later, their friendship dissolved, Miss Munir decided she should finally show the incriminating documents to police.
Mevish made one final desperate attempt to dissuade her, but by then it was too late.
The revelation threw the killers carefully-constructed defence into disarray, and in the closing weeks of the trial their entire family imploded in a series of dramatic shifts of allegiance.
Farzana Ahmed tried desperately to save herself from prison by blaming the killing on Iftikhar, and in apparent revenge for this her youngest daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, agreed to be a defence witness for her father.
The couple s only son, Junyade, so loyal before they were refused bail that he would accompany them to court each morning, asked the judge to have his name kept out of reports of his evidence. His application was refused.
Mevish, now 21, a loans manager for a major bank, had been due to appear as a defence witness, but was instead called to give evidence by the judge.
She tried desperately to hold the party line but succeeded only in making herself look foolish in front of the jury.
At one point in her evidence proceedings were halted when an usher noticed Iftikhar Ahmed looking over to her, nodding his approval. He was warned he would spend the rest of his trial in the cells if he did so again.
Mevish, who had been 12 at the time of the killing, agreed her diary entries included an account of a girl s murder at the hands of her parents, but insisted it was just an exercise in free writing .
It s what I do, she said. I write stories. It doesn t necessarily mean it s my family. It s not based on real life .
But the account was too close to the truth to be in doubt. In one of the extracts Mevish spoke of the victim being beaten and left in the cold even when she was a kid .
Later, the same girl is given a drugged drink, and at a time she is ill and practically dying a female that could only be their mother, Farzana, refuses to clean her up .
She says she would do anything to change that night , and goes on: I wish I d never seen it, but I did. No one asked, but they didn t see her face. Alesha and me saw it .
Later, she says: I swore on her life and lied something I can never turn back now. I regret it, I hate myself.
And then she adds: If people knew what I was writing now, that s it, I d be gone. I m thinking, `Is it me next?`
The seven year old coached to lie about the murder
Shafilea Ahmed s youngest sister was only seven when she witnessed the killing.
That night she ran upstairs in terror and had to be comforted by her surviving sisters.
In the morning her parents gave her a chilling warning that if she didn t keep quiet then she, too, would feel their wrath.
That day, and for many days afterwards, her mother, Farzana, took the lead role in coaching her about what she could or could not say about her sister s disappearance.
In a covert recording made when she was still only seven, the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is heard asking what she should say if a particular friend asked her about Shafilea s disappearance.
Her mother tells her: Just say your sister is missing .
The girl then asks what she should say if a teacher asks her.
Farzana Ahmed replies: Don t say anything. Just act as though you don t understand. Start talking about something else .
The coaching, and the sense of menace behind it, would keep her loyal for many years to come.
She claimed she could barely remember Shafilea, even though the teenager loved her so much that she had once returned to the family home solely in order to protect her from their parents.
Similarly, she had no recollection of the long trip to Pakistan shortly before the murder, and no memory of any trauma surrounding Shafilea s attempted suicide in her grandmother s bathroom.
At this point Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, became so frustrated by her apparent lack of recall that he snapped: Do you remember anything about your sister at all?
The girl replied: I remember bits .
Reluctantly, she confirmed occasions when outsiders witnessed her being subjected to such verbal abuse by her parents that she would be reduced to tears.
They criticised her for forsaking the hijab and instead going around in short skirts and thin blouses. At one point Iftikhar Ahmed was overheard asking who was going to fix her.
Only last year he and his wife, already angry with her for failing to pray five times a day, screamed at her for having a piercing without their consent.
As the row escalated, she was threatened with being sent to Pakistan so she could learn to follow the family s code of honour without question.
Away from the courtroom she was prepared to stand her corner and say she was fed up with her parents approach to Muslim culture and tradition.
But under her parents gaze she returned to the vow of silence she had adopted for the majority of her life.
At one point Mr Edis suggested she knew precisely what her parents had done to Shafilea, but now found herself in an impossible position .
No, she replied, not at all .