Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Girl found dead in river 'had feared a forced marriage'

Girl found dead in river 'had feared a forced marriage' | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
The parents of a 17-year-old girl whose badly decomposed body was found in a river may have been trying to force her into marriage against her will, an inquest heard yesterday.

Shafilea Ahmed disappeared from her home in Warrington, Cheshire, four months after a family trip to Pakistan, on which she was introduced to a potential suitor. During the holiday she drank bleach and self-harmed in an apparent cry for help. The inquest was also told of reports that she had been subjected to domestic abuse at home. Police launched a murder inquiry after her body was found concealed in undergrowth in February 2004, after the river Kent in Sedgwick, Cumbria, was swollen by floods.

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Shafilea's father, Iftikhar Ahmed, 48, and his wife Farzana, 45, vehemently deny any involvement in their daughter's disappearance or death and claim they were victims of racial stereotyping. Detective Superintendent Geraint Jones, who led the murder inquiry, told the inquest in Kendal that her parents had been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping in December 2003, but were released without charge. Suspicions had been aroused by statements from people who knew Shafilea claiming that she was "subject to domestic abuse and potential for forced marriage". He said there was reason to "suspect her family of involvement in her disappearance".

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