He loved discos, sexy clothes and white girls, says first wife of Shafilea Ahmed's killer father
Yesterday Farzana and Iftikhar Ahmed were jailed for 25 years for the murder of their 17-year-old daughter, who they considered too Western.
Now Mr Ahmed's first wife, a Danish women who he met in the 1980s, has revealed that the killer was formerly a fun-loving and gregarious young man with a love of Western life and white women.
As a young man, Iftikhar Ahmed — or ‘Bazza’ as he liked to be known back then — could not have embraced Western life more enthusiastically.
Fun-loving and gregarious, he cut quite a dash at parties and discos in his tight jeans and sunglasses.
Born into a strict Muslim Pakistani family, but raised in Britain, he shunned tradition by dating white girls and rejected an arranged marriage for a love
A year later they had an adored son, Tony, and Bazza seemed the most loving of fathers — and liberal of husbands. He never raised his voice, lifted a hand in anger or imposed his will on his wife.
Back then, anyway.
Today, Iftikhar Ahmed, 52, bears no resemblance to the man Vivi Lone Anderson was happily married to for four years before a remarkable set of circumstances forced them apart.
While visiting his dying mother in Pakistan, having left his Danish wife and son at home, Ahmed agreed to an arranged marriage to a cousin. When he returned to his family, it was with his new wife — already pregnant — in tow.
Almost 30 years on, Ahmed and his second, Pakistani-born wife Farzana, 49, are beginning 25-year sentences after being found guilty of the murder of their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea, who vanished from their Cheshire home in 2003.
When Shafilea’s decomposed body was found five months after her disappearance on the banks of the River Kent near Sedgwick, Cumbria, in February 2004, her parents denied any involvement and
It would be eight years before the Ahmeds would be brought to justice, after Shafilea’s younger sister, Alesha, finally confessed to the police that her parents had murdered Shafilea in an ‘honour killing’.
Shafilea had been beaten and suffocated with a plastic bag. Her crime, in her parents’ eyes, was to have brought ‘shame’ on the family by becoming Westernised.
With dreams of becoming a
So Ahmed, who’d fully enjoyed all the freedoms the West could offer, not only denied his daughter the same, but brutally murdered her in order to restore the family’s damaged status.
For, as every family — Asian or otherwise — that adheres to an honour system knows, parents who fail to control their daughters and protect them from corrupting Western influences lose all respect and are shunned by their community.
For as Vivi tells the remarkable story of her marriage to Ahmed — and its sudden end — it becomes clear that she, too, was a casualty of the same honour system that claimed Shafilea’s life.
To this day, she cannot comprehend why her husband — during a two-month trip to Pakistan — secretly went through with an arranged marriage to Farzana, mother to Shafilea and their three younger daughters and son.
As every family - Asian or otherwise - that adheres to an honour system knows, parents who fail to control their daughters and protect them from corrupting Western influences lose all respect and are shunned by their community.
‘Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that the man I loved could be capable of killing his own flesh and blood,’ says Vivi, a union representative for healthcare workers, who remarried a Danish man when her son Tony was eight.
‘The man I knew was a loving, kind father. He never once hit me or our child or told me how to live my life. When I knew him, he was very liberal and easy-going. ‘But perhaps I didn’t know him as well as I’d thought, because he was also a man capable of going through with an arranged marriage without telling me.
‘I have no doubt he loved me and our son, but the traditions of his culture must have been stronger or he would never have agreed to take another wife and become the man we see today.’
Vivi was 20 when she met Ahmed at a party at her aunt’s home. Born in Pakistan, he’d been raised in Britain since the age of four, but was living in Copenhagen where he had family.
‘Bazza was the life and soul of the party,’ says Vivi. ‘He was completely Westernised: he loved fashion, he loved parties and discos and he loved girls.
A year after they met, they decided to marry — first, in an Islamic ceremony and then in a civil ceremony in Copenhagen. Ahmed, who had been a biscuit factory worker in Britain, was studying Danish at college in the hope of securing work there.
Vivi, a Christian, says she was not asked to convert to Islam by Ahmed before their wedding. At that time, it seemed to her, he wasn’t deeply religious and the Islamic ceremony was simply a nod to the faith into which he had been born.
‘Bazza told me his mother was very happy that he was marrying me, and even more so when we had a son, but I could tell some of his relatives did not approve,’ says Vivi.
‘His uncle refused to talk to me and would visit only when I was not there. It didn’t seem important because we were happy together.’
That all changed when, four years into the marriage, Ahmed returned alone to Pakistan for two months to visit his dying mother.
‘He called me from Pakistan to say he thought we should move to Britain because there were so few employment opportunities for him in Denmark,’ says Vivi.
Vivi admits it was a huge culture shock moving from Copenhagen to a predominantly Asian area of Bradford, but her delight at being reunited with Ahmed would last less than two weeks.
No sooner had Vivi unpacked her belongings in their terrace house than one of Ahmed’s relatives brought round a young, clearly pregnant woman.
‘I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when the uncle referred to this woman as my husband’s wife. Farzana hardly spoke any English, so I demanded answers from Bazza,’ says Vivi.
‘He told me he’d married Farzana in Pakistan. He said he couldn’t refuse because he’d been promised to her by his family, and so had no choice.
‘I was very angry with him and we had a big fight. I was so upset, I put my hand through a glass window and had to go to hospital to get it cleaned up.
‘I couldn’t understand why Bazza hadn’t been honest with me before. He could have explained why he had to marry Farzana, instead of making me move to Britain with Tony.
‘Perhaps he wanted me, the wife he had chosen out of love, and Farzana, the wife who had been chosen by his family.
‘When he was in Pakistan, away from us and surrounded by relatives telling him what he had to do, perhaps he couldn’t find a way to refuse without bringing shame on his family.
‘For me, the situation was completely unacceptable. I told him to buy air tickets for me and Tony to return to Denmark. All that mattered to me was our son, Tony.
‘My husband did not try to persuade me to stay nor did he offer to go back with me. I think he was more worried I might go to the police to report him.
‘I had to move into my mother’s apartment and find work as a nursing assistant in a care home. But I was just pleased to get away from the whole situation and to be home.
‘The last time I heard from Bazza was when he phoned to tell me Farzana had given birth to a daughter. I told him I wanted a divorce and asked him to send my possessions. He promised to send me money for Tony.
‘I never heard from him again. My possessions were never returned and no money was sent. He never tried to contact his son or see him. It was as if we just didn’t exist any more.’
When Tony was eight, Vivi married Erik, a paint manufacturer, who became a loving father to Tony, now 31 and an electrician, and the couple’s own 17-year-old daughter.
‘Tony has never missed his father, because Erik is everything a son could ever want.
‘When the police contacted us after Shafilea disappeared, we were shocked, but I never thought my former husband was involved in her death.’
Following the Ahmeds’ trial at Chester Crown Court has been a difficult experience for Vivi. She says she cannot pretend to understand what drove the Ahmeds to sacrifice their daughter for family honour, but is relieved her own son was not brought up to hold the same beliefs.
‘Part of me still refuses to believe that Bazza could do such a thing — not when I remember the man I fell in love with,’ she says sadly.