"they would try to pass food to her without her mum seeing."
Shafilea Ahmed was murdered by her own parents but it wasn’t until her friend Shahin Munir revealed the abuse she suffered before her death.
Shafilea, aged 16, was killed in 2003 by her mother and father in an honour killing. They shoved a plastic bag down her throat after subjecting her to years of abuse.
She went missing from their home in Warrington, only for her body to be found in a river in Cumbria six months later.
Her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were not charged as police struggled to find evidence.
It was only after Alesha, one of Shafilea’s sisters, agreed to testify in court that she saw her parents kill Shafilea that they were charged with murder.
It may not have been enough to convict them until Shahin revealed a secret she had kept.
She produced photocopies of a letter, written by another sister, Mevish, which described seeing the murder with the same details as Alesha’s account.
The evidence resulted in the Ahmed’s being found guilty and jailed for a minimum of 25 years.
Shahin has spoken about her friend’s murder and why she decided to come forward with the secret.
Shahin became friends with Shafilea and her three siblings after going to the same mosque as them.
After Shafilea was murdered, Mevish spoke to Shahin about how her parents used to abuse her sister.
Shahin said: “For one or another she started opening up to me about when Shafilea would be locked outside, that Shafilea would quite often be beaten up, how she wasn’t allowed to do anything.
“There were physical beatings, there was a lot of emotional abuse going on, there was a lot of isolation for Shafilea where she’d be locked in her room or even outside.
“When Shafilea was in the garden they would try to pass food to her without her mum seeing.
“Our friendship was based on the fact that she would open up to me about the things that went on at home, and I was the person she would talk to when things got really bad. She had a genuine fear for her life too.”
In 2008, Mevish wanted to tell Shahin something important and wrote it in a letter.
She had a feeling that it would be about her friend and when it was written, Mevish messaged Shahin.
Miss Munir explained: “She was going to town that day with her mum, so I got there first and as they walked past she dropped the letters behind her without her mum seeing.
“I picked them up and left as quick as I could, in fact, I didn’t even look at them until I got home into my bedroom. I sat cross-legged and started opening the letters.”
Mevish had written about the night her mother murdered Shafilea, while her siblings looked on.
Shahin spoke about what Mevish wrote: “They sat Shafilea down on this chair, they had this one chair where they would sit her and the family would gather round, and that’s when they started abusing her and beating her, one would hold her body and one would physically abuse her.
“They got a plastic bag and they put it in her mouth and held her down on the sofa, and she struggled until she stopped.”
“And then the kids were told to go upstairs to their room.
“Her dad got rid of the body and her mum after came in the bedroom and got into bed with them like everything was normal.
“And from that point on the kids understood, you’ll never talk about this again.”
Shahin described her shock: “I always understood the notion of honour within a family, I always understood the notion of shame within a community but I never believed that you could take it so far that you would kill your own.”
In the letters, Mevish told how Shafilea wet herself as she died and her mother was constantly cleaning the sofa to get rid of it.
She saw her father put something in his car and drive off, believing it to be Shafilea’s body. She also wrote about the nightmares she suffered as a result of the murder.
Mevish asked for the letters as was afraid of someone finding out. When Shahin gave them back, the teenager ripped them up.
However, Shahin secretly photocopied the letters and kept them, reports the Daily Mirror.
Shahin regularly visited the Ahmed home and saw how Shafilea’s parents believed their daughter was becoming too “westernised”.
Shafilea wanted to wear western clothes like her friends and repeatedly refused her parent’s calls for an arranged marriage. In their eyes, it brought shame on the family.
Miss Munir said: “Shafilea did have relationships with boys, you go to school with them, you get to know people. She was texting them but of course, all of that had to be hidden.
“It couldn’t be on her mobile phone in case her parents would check it, so that aspect of her life was very well hidden.
Six months before her death, Shafilea drank bleach in Pakistan after her parents took her there with the intention of marrying her off.
There were talks of her getting married to one of her cousins and drank bleach as a means of escape.
The bleach severely burnt her throat as she got worse, her parents were forced to buy a return ticket.
Her parents claimed she had drunk it by accident, she thought it was mouthwash.
On September 11, 2003, Shafilea was killed after Farzana collected her and found she was wearing a T-shirt and showing her arms.
After the murder, Iftikhar dumped the body next to the River Kent.
When Mevish opened up about her sister’s ordeal, Shahin promised to never tell anyone. However, she broke her silence when she saw the courage of Alesha when she testified against her parents in August 2012.
Helen Morris, of the CPS, described what Alesha said.
“She was screened from her parents, but the jury could see her.
“They were absolutely gripped by what she was saying. She gave an account of how her mother had gone to collect Shafilea from her part-time job in a call centre.
“Shafilea was apparently wearing a T-shirt, was showing her arms and this had upset her mother.”
After they got home, there was an argument and then her mother “suddenly decided she’d had enough and she said words to the effect of ‘let’s finish it here’.
Alesha had described how her sister was held down on the sofa while a plastic bag was stuffed into her mouth. The children witnessed their parents kill their sister.
The trial was underway when the police were contacted by Shahin.
She explained what she knew and Mevish was then called as a witness. But she stayed loyal to her parents and claimed that the story was made up and merely a creative writing exercise.
However, what she had written was almost identical to her sister’s testimony. It convinced the jury that Iftikhar and Farzana were guilty.
The judge told them: “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child.”
They were each jailed for 25 years without the possibility of parole.