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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 00:44 GMT
Parents deny Shafilea marriage
Shafilea Ahmed
Shafilea's body was found by the River Kent in Sedgwick
The parents of an Asian teenager whose body was found in a Cumbrian river have denied any involvement in her death, in their first televised interview.

Shafilea Ahmed's parents, questioned over her death, also told BBC Two's Newsnight they had not tried to organise an arranged marriage for her.

Shafilea, 17, vanished after returning from a holiday to Pakistan during which she met a potential marriage partner.

She later wrote about her angst at being "trapped" between two cultures.

Her body was discovered in early February by the River Kent at Sedgwick, and detectives believe it may have been deliberately concealed there since she went missing on 11 September last year.

Speaking publicly for the first time since their daughter's death, Shafilea's father Ifitkar, 44, and mother Farzana, 41, told Newsnight they had "never" tried to force her to marry.

They were arrested in December on suspicion of abducting their daughter, but were released on bail pending further inquiries.

'Honour killing' claim

Police have declined to comment on speculation the teenager could have refused an arranged marriage and become the victim of a so-called "honour killing".

But asked whether he had tried to force his daughter to marry someone against her wishes, Mr Ahmed said: "No, never."

The 44-year-old taxi driver from Warrington, Cheshire, added: "A distant family member did ask us for our daughter's hand in marriage... but she said she was not ready for such a thing.

"I said I respect her wishes... and we left it at that."

Shafilea received medical attention during the holiday in Pakistan, after she drank bleach.

But Iftikhar said Shafilea had told her mother she had accidentally picked up a bottle of bleach instead of mouthwash during a power cut.

He said: "Shafilea threw up and screamed, and we called a taxi and took her to hospital."

He also denied being a strict parent, saying: "I am as English as anybody can be. I am not strict in any way."

He said he was happy with his daughter's western tastes in pop music and fashion, and had bought her western-style clothes.

'Ethnic stereotyping'

Shafilea, who had been studying A levels and wanted to become a lawyer, was last seen alive by her parents on 11 September last year and her disappearance was reported by her school teachers.

Mr Ahmed said he and his wife had not reported her disappearance to police as they "assumed she had obviously gone with her friends, or her boyfriend".

He added: "We thought we would give it a couple of days."

The Ahmed's lawyer, Milton Firman, claims the family have being treated differently because they are Asian, accusing the police of "ethnic stereotyping".

But Detective Superintendent John Armstrong of Cheshire Police told Newsnight: "We have not been guilty of racial stereotyping.

"We have been working widely with the Asian community and... have followed many lines of inquiry."

The case was given wider publicity when Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati read poetry and notes left by Shafilea, in which she explained her personal torment at being torn between East and West, saying "I'm so trapped".

Ifitkar Ahmed
"We just wish somebody could tell us what happened to her"

Parents deny any part in death
24 Feb 04  |  England
Missing girl's jewellery found on body
18 Feb 04  |  Merseyside
Jewellery clue to Kendal body
09 Feb 04  |  Cumbria

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