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Detective in charge of Shafilea Ahmed investigation speaks out
In September 2003, the Cheshire Constabulary took a telephone call from a concerned teacher about a missing teenage girl.
From here began one of the most complex and lengthy enquiries the Cheshire Constabulary has dealt with.
Shafilea Ahmed was a 17year old girl with a bright future before her. As the police missing persons enquiry began, it became clear that not only her former teachers, but also her school friends were deeply concerned about where she might be, and what had happened to her. The police enquiry was extensive, spanning the length and breadth of the country, but no information was found to provide any reassurance that Shafilea was alive. Police enquiries quickly shifted from a missing persons enquiry, to a criminal investigation.
Our worst fears were confirmed in February 2004 when decomposed remains found by the banks of a river in Cumbria, were found to be all that remained of Shafilea’s body, and a murder enquiry was launched. That murder enquiry spanned a further 6 years, with many lines of enquiry and thousands of actions undertaken by the police in an attempt to find how Shafilea had met her death, and why. During that period, the Cumbrian Coroner held an inquest into Shafilea’s death, returning a verdict of Unlawful Killing.
Cheshire Constabulary never closed the file on Shafilea Ahmed. It is the role of the police to consider the facts as we have them, to follow up every line of enquiry, every piece of information. The criminal investigations into the disappearance and murder of Shafilea Ahmed did exactly this, and were conducted throughout with impartiality, integrity, and professionalism.
From very early on, through talking to those Shafilea confided in, police began to have real concerns about her home environment. She had run away several times, had the marks of physical abuse, had self harmed, and clearly feared the control her parents sought to impose upon her.
Over the years, many people have asked me – Is this a so-called honour killing? For me, this is a case of domestic abuse by two parents towards their children. Domestic abuse is sadly, something which the police have to deal with too often. It transcends culture, class, race, and religion. There is always a trigger - In the case of Shafilea, the abuse she suffered was motivated by her parents’ desire to control her, to make her conform to their interpretation of Pakistani culture.
They tried to control her, to force her into marriage, and to prevent her from expressing herself. When this failed, they murdered her – a vile and shameful act, against their own daughter, someone they should have been proud of.