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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 21:32 GMT
Girl was 'strangled or smothered'
Shafilea Ahmed
Shafilea Ahmed's body was found in a river in February 2004
A Warrington schoolgirl whose decomposed body was found next to a Cumbrian river was either smothered or strangled, an inquest has heard.

Pathologist Dr Alison Armour told the inquest in Kendal it was "not credible" that Shafilea Ahmed, 17, of Liverpool Road, died of natural causes.

Police arrested and bailed at least seven members of her family after her teachers reported her missing in 2003.

The teenager disappeared from her home four months after a trip to Pakistan.

As the hearing at Kendal Town Hall opened her father Iftikhar Ahmed said he was "surprised" when she went missing.

She was a very normal child, very bright
Iftikhar Ahmed, father

He revealed "problems arose" when she started her sixth form education.

Police launched a murder inquiry after Shafilea's body was found near the River Kent at Sedgwick, near Kendal, in February 2004.

She was last seen in September 2003 at the Warrington home she shared with her parents, three sisters and younger brother.

Mr Ahmed told south Cumbria coroner Ian Smith: "She was a very normal child, very bright."

'No pressure'

He said his daughter did not explain why she was leaving home, and it was a surprise when she went missing.

Shafilea had ambitions to become a solicitor and he had encouraged her and was proud of her achievements, the hearing was told.

Supt Geraint Jones of Cheshire Police said he established there had been a telephone call in the summer of 2002 between Mr Ahmed and a relative in Pakistan in which the question of marriage was raised.

He told the inquest Mr Ahmed had said Shafilea was too young at that stage for marriage.

Mr Smith asked: "Did you ascertain whether she had been informed about the call over a possible arranged marriage?"

Mr Jones replied: "It was discussed in the family who said there was no pressure and it was a matter for Shafilea."

Relatives arrested

When she went missing in February 2003 there was evidence of pre-planning in her decision to leave home, Mr Jones said.

He added there was a record of her stating she was "running away because she was in fear of being married".

Shafilea also confided in others that she was subject to domestic abuse, that she had drunk a "caustic substance" and self harmed, the inquest heard.

No-one has been charged with the teenager's murder and her parents, who offered a 5,000 reward to catch her killer, have always maintained they had nothing to do with her death.

Mr Ahmed and his wife, Farzana, were arrested on suspicion of her kidnap in December 2003 and later released on police bail.

Five other relatives from the Bradford area, where Shafilea was born, were also arrested and released on police bail.

The hearing continues.

Shafilea Ahmed's mysterious disappearance

Bail extended in Shafilea inquiry
21 Nov 05 |  Bradford
Parents anger over murder probe
18 Feb 05 |  England
Shafilea relatives are released
09 Sep 04 |  Manchester
Shafelia parents could sue police
02 Jul 04 |  Lancashire
Funeral for murdered Shafelia
09 Apr 04 |  Merseyside

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