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KILLED?; ..the 17-year-old girl who refused to accept an arranged marriage.

Byline: JAN DISLEY

A MISSING Asian teenage girl is feared dead after an arranged marriage trip, police said yesterday.

Shafilea Ahmed, 17, has not been seen for more than two months.

Detectives were last night speaking to Shafi's father Iftikhar and mother Farzana.

In July Shafilea - known as Shafi to her friends - was taken to Pakistan to meet the husband chosen by her taxi-driver father.

While there she tried to commit suicide by swallowing bleach.

Shafi suffered horrific caustic burns to her throat - which left her unable to eat or drink - and she was brought home to England.

She needed five weeks hospital treatment to save her life.

But within weeks of being discharged Shafi, who was born in England, vanished on September 11.

Yesterday Cheshire police were scouring wasteland near her home in Great Sankey, Warrington.

Forensic teams carried out a detailed examination of the family's semi-detached house and removed a Honda Civic car and Nissan Primera in a 13-hour operation.

Neighbour Sheila Costello said: "They always seem a happy family and the children always stop and say hello if you see them in the street.

"We heard they had an argument over an arranged marriage and that Shafi had run away. I hope nothing terrible has happened to her. She's a lovely, bubbly girl." Detectives said they fear that Shafi is dead.

Det Chief Insp Gerraint Jones said: "It is increasingly likely that Shafilea is dead. Her family are very private and have asked us to respect their privacy. They have told us her brother and sisters are considerably upset.

"She has not contacted any friends or family and we believe she must be dead because she has not sought any help for her medical condition, suffered as a result of swallowing bleach.

"This happened on a trip to Pakistan and it is an avenue of our investigations that it was a cry for help.

"Her family say a suitor had been found for her in Pakistan but she was free to make her own decisions."

Shafi was described as a "bright, intelligent girl", respectful of her Muslim religion. She was studying for A-levels at college in Warrington.

She has been reported missing twice before and been found staying with friends. Her parents said that was why they did not report her disappearance this time.

Staff at Great Sankey High School, where her sisters are pupils, called in police on September 19. When questioned her parents said they had last seen her at home nine days earlier.

Shagufta Khan of the Asian Women's Refuge, Sheffield, said forced marriages are still commonplace in many Asian communities.

CAPTION(S):

FEARS: Shafilea Ahmed, 17, has not been seen for two months
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2003
Words:450
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