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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 15:42 GMT
Hidden angst of 'trapped' teenager
Actress Shobna Gulati at news conference held for Shafilea Ahmed
Actress Shobna Gulati read Shafilea's lyrics during an appeal
It was teachers at the school of Cheshire teenager Shafilea Ahmed who first reported her missing in September 2003.

When the 17-year-old's home in the Great Sankey area of Warrington was searched by police, song lyrics which spoke of her unhappiness were found in her bedroom.

In them, the bright, ambitious teenager spoke of her angst at being "trapped" between two cultures.

"Desire to live is burning, my stomach is turning, but all they think about is honour," the lyrics read.

They went on: "I was like a normal teenage kid, didn't ask too much, I just wanted to fit in.

"But my culture was different, but my family ignored."

Changed clothes

According to her friends, Safilea had "strict" parents and rarely socialised outside of school.

She and her siblings were collected from outside school every day by her father, they said.

Gill Power, Safilea's form tutor at Great Sankey High School, said as the eldest sibling, she was expected to do the housework and cooking at home, and "wasn't getting to do her homework until 9pm, 10pm at night".

She said: "She wanted to be part of the school and be Westernised but also she loved her family very much and her religion, and she found it very hard to marry the two."

Teachers recalled how at the end of a school disco, she changed out of the "beautiful blue dress" she had worn into a baggy old jumper because her father was picking her up.

The teenager also climbed out of a window at home one night in order to escape her family.

Body found

In weeks following Shafilea's disappearance, detectives said they were almost certain the teenager was dead.

Forensic officers examine the riverbank next to the River Kent, Cumbria
The teenager's body was found next to the River Kent in Cumbria

In December, officers held a appeal for information, in which actress Shobna Gulati, who played Sunita in Coronation Street, read Shafilea's song lyrics.

Ms Gulati said she sympathised with the teenager's difficulty in balancing her culture with her upbringing.

She said: "She has obviously been unable to express herself in terms of her family and she probably talks like this to her friends, or has written these songs in private."

Her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana, were arrested on suspicion of their daughter's kidnap and later bailed.

They both vehemently denied any involvement in their daughter's disappearance.

In February 2004, five months after Shafilea's disappearance, the teenager's decomposed body was found by the River Kent at Sedgewick, near Kendal, Cumbria.

In their first televised interview, on BBC Two's Newsnight in the same month, Mr and Mrs Ahmed parents said they had not tried to organise an arranged marriage for her and their daughter had drunk the bleach by accident.

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

Farzana Ahmed
Shafilea's mother, Farzana, was among 150 mourners at her funeral

He 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."

About 150 mourners gathered for Shafilea's funeral which was held in April 2004 at the Warrington Islamic Community Centre.

The teenager's coffin was driven from the family home to the ceremony in a cortege with a police motorcycle escort.

In September 2004 eight members of her family in Bradford, West Yorkshire, were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice after police searched a number of houses there.

In February 2005 Shafilea's parents urged the police to admit they had made no progress in catching her killer and said they were "angry" that officers had "kept them out of the picture".

The inquest into Shafilea's death, which ended on Friday, concluded the teenager was unlawfully killed.

Coroner Ian Smith said he believed she was murdered and had been genuinely afraid, rightly or wrongly, that her parents were planning to arrange her marriage.



SEE ALSO
Marriage fear teenager 'murdered'
11 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
Father denies forced wedding plot
10 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
Parents anger over murder probe
18 Feb 05 |  England
New Shafilea post mortem ordered
26 Mar 04 |  Manchester
Funeral for murdered Shafilea
09 Apr 04 |  Merseyside
Soap star's missing girl appeal
04 Dec 03 |  Merseyside



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