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Father denies forced wedding plot

10 January 08 14:00 GMT

The father of a teenager whose body was found on a riverbank five months after she disappeared has denied trying to force her into marriage.

The decomposed body of Shafilea Ahmed, 17, of Liverpool Road, Warrington, was found on a Cumbrian riverbank in 2004.

At an inquest in Kendal, her father, Ifitkar, said he had not sent her to Pakistan to marry nor had he stolen her money or beaten her.

While in Pakistan she drank bleach after meeting a possible suitor.

Mr Ahmed admitted that before leaving for Pakistan his uncle had asked if Miss Ahmed would marry his son, Rafaqat.

But he claimed that when the same question was put to his daughter when they arrived, he accepted her "no way" answer.

Taxi driver, Mr Ahmed, added: "I always ask to my kids: 'Whatever you decide to do with your lives I'm fully behind you'."

The inquest has already heard how Miss Ahmed confided in community and homelessness workers that she was being "beaten and robbed" by her father and mother, Farzana.

She also claimed that they were forcing her into marriage.

Mr Ahmed, 48, said: "There's no question of her being married. There's no potential suitor. I've never discussed the marriage question between me and the daughter.

"That discussion has never taken place. Where she's heard it from I don't know."

Mr Ahmed, a taxi driver, also denied claims made in evidence at the hearing by Miss Ahmed's friends that he and his wife beat her and stole her savings.

Medical experts told the inquest the teenager was either smothered or strangled.

The girl's father and mother are both being questioned as part of the hearing by a solicitor representing Cumbria Coroner's Court and Cheshire Police.

Cheshire Police launched a murder investigation five years ago, but nobody has ever been convicted.

Her parents were arrested on suspicion of kidnap when their daughter went missing, as were five relatives from Bradford, but all were later released without charge.

In a personal statement written by the schoolgirl, as part of an effort to apply for accommodation away from her parents' home, Miss Ahmed said: "I had saved £2,000 which they took out of my bank account.

'Build-up of violence'

"My parents are going to send me to Pakistan and I'll be married to someone and left there.

"There had been a build-up of violence towards me, and my mother told me I was about to go to Pakistan for an arranged marriage.

"My mother had started to pack and my parents had been in to school to inform them we were going to Pakistan."

A short time after Miss Ahmed returned from Pakistan in 2003, she vanished but was not reported missing by her parents. Instead, it was her teachers at Great Sankey High School who informed the authorities of her disappearance.

The hearing continues.

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