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History > 2008 > UK > Crime (I)




Six more bodies

feared buried in Jersey home


Monday February 25 2008
The Guardian
Helen Pidd in Jersey and Steven Morris
This article appeared in the Guardian
on Monday February 25 2008
on p1 of the Top stories section.
It was last updated
at 00:22 on February 25 2008.


Six more bodies may be buried at a former children's home in Jersey where a youngster's remains were found by detectives investigating allegations of widespread child abuse on the island, police said yesterday. The remains were found under a thick concrete floor inside the Victorian mansion, beside scraps of fabric, a button and what appeared to be a hair clip. It is believed the child's skull was among the remains found.

Yesterday Lenny Harper, the senior investigating officer, said a sniffer dog that found the first remains had identified six other potential burial sites in and around the home. Radar equipment had confirmed areas of interest and Harper said he could not rule out the possibility that "half a dozen" bodies might be found.

"There could be six, but it could be higher than that," he said.

The officer in charge of the case said bones were found on the premises around five years ago. At the time, it was assumed they were animal bones, but in the light of the new findings, the police hope to examine them - if they can find them again. "They have gone missing," said Harper.

The search at the former home, Haut de la Garenne, is expected to take several more weeks, and it will be at least a fortnight before the age and sex of the child whose remains have been found, and when he or she died, can be established.

Harper said identifying the child could be difficult, as the records relating to the home are not complete. Police have begun to sift missing people's reports going back almost half a century.

The discovery of the remains on Saturday came after Jersey police last Tuesday began a forensic search of the building, which is now a youth hostel. "We got information from three different sources that there may well be human remains here," said Harper, speaking outside the home in St Martin.

The abuse investigation, one of the biggest ever on the Channel island, began more than a year ago after an earlier inquiry into allegations of abuse connected to the Sea Cadet Corps on Jersey. Police spotted links between suspects in the Sea Cadet case and a number of institutions on Jersey, including Haut de la Garenne.

For 12 months officers worked covertly on the case before going public last November and appealing for any alleged victims of abuse to contact them.

Since then the police have taken statements from around 140 alleged victims who claim to have been abused while at Haut de la Garenne, as well as 40 suspects. Most of these suspects were "respected figures of the establishment" who worked at the home in "positions of responsibility", Harper said.

When the NSPCC joined the investigation, the children's charity received four times more calls in the first week than it had ever had when working on other British operations of this type. Calls came from as far away as Thailand, Germany and Australia, as well as the UK, Guernsey and Jersey itself. Two Jersey police officers are currently in Australia interviewing alleged victims.

The allegations date back to the 1940s and up to 1986, when the home was closed, but the bulk of complainants claim they were abused in the 1960s, said Harper. "Allegations range from physical assaults right through to rape. It is difficult to envisage more horrific crimes than some of those that are alleged to have been carried out here," he said.

So far one man has been charged with three indecent assaults on girls under the age of 16, allegedly committed while he worked at Haut de la Garenne, which featured as a police station in the television detective series Bergerac.

However the police yesterday stressed that the man was not suspected of any other crimes, and was not linked to the remains discovered at the weekend.

Jersey senator Stuart Syvret, 42, told the Guardian he had spoken to two men, now in their 50s and 60s, who claim to have been savagely physically abused at the home. "They said it was standard practice for staff to punch children in their heads if they walked with their shoulders slumped, and children were routinely beaten with birch canes," he said.

Syvret, a former health and social services minister on Jersey, claims there was a "culture of cover-up and concealment" within the island's government, the States of Jersey. He said: "There has been a long-running systematic failure of child protection on the island." He said since the police investigation began he had heard of abuse dating back to the end of the second world war and right up to the 1990s at Haut de la Garenne and other homes.

In December, Syvret used his Christmas address to the states assembly as father of the house to claim that a blind eye had been turned to abuse for years. "It became clear", he said, "that what we were facing was something far worse than the occasional isolated instance of abuse. What Jersey had tolerated in its midst was a culture of disregard." He claims he was ousted as a minister because he raised awkward questions about child abuse.

Concerns about how children are treated in Jersey continue to be raised today. An inquiry is under way after a social worker, Simon Bellwood, claimed that as recently as 2006, a "grand prix system" was employed at the Greenfield secure unit. Children were on one of four levels - qualifier, grid, track and pits - according to behaviour. In the "pits" category, for repeated bad behaviour, they would spend up to 24 hours a day in a cell.

Bellwood told the Guardian yesterday that the sort of "checks and balances" found on the mainland were not in force on Jersey, which has its own government. The island, is a leading offshore financial centre and home to many rich and famous people attracted by its favourable tax regime. Privately, politicians are afraid that the child abuse inquiry may tarnish its image and affect tourism, one of Jersey's main industries.

After Saturday's discovery, the island's chief minister, senator Frank Walker, said: "It is imperative that children are safe in Jersey and I believe that today they are. It is, however, clear that this may not always have been the case. Although we can't right the wrongs of the past, we will do everything in our power to assist the police in seeking out the person or persons responsible."

The youth hostel now based at Haut de la Garenne was closed when the police investigation began, with a small number of residents forced to leave.




Timeline: Haut de la Garenne

1867 The industrial school "for young people of the lower classes of society and neglected children" was built at St Martin in the east of Jersey. Later it became known as Haut de la Garenne.

1986 The home was closed and transformed into a 100-bed youth hostel.

Late 80s and early 90s Adults connected to Jersey's Sea Cadet corps were arrested by police for sexual offences against young cadets. A number were convicted.

Autumn 2006 Police noticed links between victims of the Sea Cadet corps cases and some island institutions. They begin to make discreet inquiries and found victims of alleged sexual abuse and mistreatment among ex-residents of Haut de la Garenne.

November 2007 Police go public with their findings and more than 140 potential victims come forward. They begin looking at up to 40 suspects. Allegations span up to six decades.

December 2007 The States of Jersey, the island's government, is accused of tolerating a "culture of disregard" in its children's homes by the senator and former health minister, Stuart Syvret.

January 2008 A man is charged with allegedly indecently assaulting three girls under 16 between 1969 and 1979, when they were at Haut de la Garenne. Police have distanced him from the current search.

Tuesday February 19 Information from three people the police had spoken to as part of their abuse inquiry prompts officers to begin to dig at Haut de la Garenne.

Saturday morning The body of a child is found at the home after a sniffer dog detects remains through several inches of concrete. It will take several weeks for the gender of the body, and how long it had been there, to be established.

Yesterday Police reveal that up to six other bodies may be found.

Six more bodies feared buried in Jersey home, G, 25.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/feb/25/jersey.child.bodies






Prostitute murders:

The tragedy of the cases still unsolved

A third of murders where the victims
are prostitutes are unresolved.
Could the deaths of five women in Norwich
be linked to those in Ipswich,
and are police sufficiently diligent
in investigating such crimes?


Sunday, 24 February 2008
The Independent on Sunday
By Cole Moreton


But this is not Ipswich, where the relatives of five victims had their pain eased just a little on Friday by the full life sentence given to the killer, Steve Wright. This is Norwich, 45 miles to the north, where the police show no sign of solving the long-standing cases of Natalie Pearman, Mandy Duncan, Kellie Pratt, Michelle Bettles and Vicky Hall. Here, five families remain distraught.

"Every day I think of Kellie," said her mother Gloria Carpena. "What's happened in Ipswich has brought it all back."

At least 89 sex workers were killed over the last decade (the figure is conservative, given that some just disappear and some never reveal what they do for money). Half are thought to have died at the hands of their clients, according to a major study published two years ago – but in more than a third of cases, the crime went unsolved. That compares badly with the national figure, which is that 90 per cent of murders are cleared up.

For those who try to help street sex workers stay safe, the contrast between the handling of the cases in Ipswich and elsewhere illustrates that the police don't really care much about the deaths of prostitutes – unless there is an obvious serial killer on the loose.

"Some police officers see the violence as part of the job of a sex worker," said Ruth Morgan Thomas of the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project. "When they report violence, the police are dismissive."

Rosie Campbell of the Network of Sex Work Projects said that, despite the huge amount of effort and money put into Ipswich since the murders, "there has been a depressing lack of change on the ground for women involved in street sex work elsewhere".

Norfolk Constabulary became quite excited when their close colleagues in Suffolk caught Wright, who had been a landlord in Norwich for a short while. Detectives said they were "continuing to check [their] database to see if there is any information". But only a few months later, the new Chief Constable suggested this had been fruitless: "The tragic circumstances in Suffolk clearly caused us to examine the issues there against the unsolved murders and disappearances which we have.... I'm happy that they're not linked with events in Suffolk."

Lin Pearman, the mother of Natalie, who died in 1992, has learned not to get her hopes up. "I have had situations before when the press have linked Natalie with other murders and I've got all excited and emotionally involved and it's a big, big let down," she said. "I'm trying to cope by standing back from the situation."

A DNA sample was taken from Natalie's body, which could offer a potential match with the murderer. "The police have contacted me," said Mrs Pearman before the trial. "I believe there may have been things done to the bodies of the women that could link them to what happened to Natalie. The police said as soon as there is confirmation of a strong link I will be the first to know about it." That call appears not to have come.

After the conviction on Thursday there was much speculation linking Wright to other cases. But Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who led the Ipswich inquiry, said: "Currently we are aware of no evidence which would directly link him to any other crimes."

If he didn't kill the women, then who did? The first to die was Natalie Pearman, a regular at the Ferry Boat Inn he once ran in the red-light district of Norwich. She was found strangled and semi-naked at the local beauty spot, Ringland Hills, in 1992. Mandy Duncan was next. The 26-year-old mother of two children went missing in the summer of 1993 and was never found. An anonymous death threat was discovered in her flat.

Six years later Vicky Hall, 17, was snatched and suffocated as she walked home to her village. The search lasted five days, until her body was found in a ditch. Kellie Pratt, 29, was last seen arguing on the phone in central Norwich in June 2000. She has never been found, but like Mandy Duncan is presumed dead. And in March 2002, the body of Michelle Bettles, 22, was found strangled in woodland near Dereham, Norfolk.

Police have never ruled out a link between the five deaths. As for the suggestion that prostitute murders are investigated less diligently than others, Norfolk Constabulary had nobody available for comment as we went to press. The only case to go to trial has been that of Vicky Hall: a local businessman was charged but cleared by a court. Coincidentally or not, Vicky Hall was also the only one of the five women killed in Norwich who was not a prostitute.




Lamplugh case: Did he kill Suzy?


Steve Wright's conviction for the Ipswich murders sparked speculation that he might have killed estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, missing since 1986. Those linked to her disappearance include:

* Steve Wright and Miss Lamplugh, who was 25 in 1986, worked on the QE2 together. Wright was on leave when Suzy vanished.

* Michael Sams was accused in a 1995 book by crime writer Christopher Berry-Dee. Sams is serving life for the murder of Julie Dart and for kidnapping estate agent Stephanie Slater.

* John Cannan has been the prime suspect since he was convicted in 1989 of the rape and murder of Shirley Banks, 29. Cannan had been released from jail three days before. He insists that he is innocent.

* David Rosengarten, a Belgian diamond dealer with the family name Kiper, was questioned – and cleared – by police.

Sara Odeen-Isbister

    Prostitute murders: The tragedy of the cases still unsolved, IoS, 24.2.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/prostitute-murders-the-tragedy-of-the-cases-still-unsolved-786412.html






Suspected suicides in Bridgend area

reach 17 as schoolgirl found hanged

· Links to social networking websites ruled out
· Parents of boy who died blame coverage in media


Wednesday February 20 2008
The Guardian
Robert Booth
This article appeared in the Guardian
on Wednesday February 20 2008 on p2 of the Top stories section.
It was last updated at 07:39 on February 20 2008.


A 16-year-old schoolgirl was found hanged yesterday, bringing to 17 the number of apparent suicides among youngsters in the Bridgend area since the beginning of last year.

South Wales police said Jenna Parry was discovered at 7.45am in woods near her home at Cefn Cribbwr, a small village north-west of the town.

Her death is the latest in a spate which has made Bridgend the focus of national scrutiny and the centre of a police investigation to discover possible links between the suicides. Speculation originally centred on the internet and social networking websites but police and grieving relatives moved yesterday to quash rumours of such links.

The parents of 15-year-old Nathaniel Pritchard, who apparently killed himself last week, went further and blamed their son's death on press coverage. Nathaniel's mother, Sharon, said: "It has glamorised ways of taking your life as a way of getting attention without fully realising the tragic consequences."

Last week, two cousins died within two days of each other and five people aged between 15 and 20 have died in the area this year.

"A number had access to social networking sites but there's no suggestion that anybody used these sites as a means to take their lives," said assistant chief constable Dave Morris, who is leading an investigation into the deaths. "I would like to put to bed any suggestion within the media that we are investigating suicide pacts or suicide internet links. They were all young people with big issues. There are a constellation of factors influencing these young people." These included relationship break-ups, friendship issues and family problems, he said.

Philip Walters, the coroner for Bridgend and Glamorgan Valleys, said he was convinced there was "not one great conspiracy" linking the 17 deaths, although he said there was clear evidence that the first three suicides and two subsequent pairs were linked by the victims knowing each other. "Apart from the three groupings, there are no links that I can see," he said. "Parts of the media have claimed there is an internet connection but there has been no evidence of that apart from internet tributes after the deaths."

The number of suicides in the last 12 months is above average for the area. In Bridgend, three men aged between 15 and 24 committed suicide on average every year between 1996 and 2006. Last year there were at least nine.

"Media coverage put the idea into Nathaniel's head," said Sharon Pritchard. "We never believed his death was linked to other deaths and never believed there was an internet pact. We are certain it never had anything to do with living in Bridgend."

Nathaniel died in hospital after "harming himself" last week. His cousin Kelly Stephenson, 20, was found hanged hours later while on holiday in Kent.

The police also criticised reporting of the suicides and said Bridgend is becoming "stigmatised" by the coverage.

"We are speaking to young people in Bridgend and what we are getting from them is that the media is starting to contribute to their thoughts in terms of how they feel, pressures they are under," said Morris.

A friend of Jenna's, Daniel John, 20, said: "It has been an absolute shock. She was so bubbly and carefree. I can't imagine why she would take her own life."

The Welsh assembly yesterday announced plans for a suicide prevention strategy. It wants to reduce suicides in the principality by 10% over the next four years. Suicide rates among men in Wales are the highest in the UK and plans for a national school-based counselling service will be published this spring.

The assembly's health minister Edwina Hart said: "I have also agreed that there will be some early pilot projects in suicide prevention work in those areas with the highest suicide rates and am aware that the rates vary across Wales and are not associated with one area."

    Suspected suicides in Bridgend area reach 17 as schoolgirl found hanged, G, 20.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/feb/20/wales






Confusion and sadness in Bridgend

at suicide of two more youngsters


February 16, 2008
From The Times
Rajeev Syal


Two cousins from Bridgend, Wales, have been found hanged, bringing the suspected suicide toll among the town’s young people to 16.

Nathaniel Pritchard, 15, was found barely alive on Wednesday and died yesterday when his life-support machine was turned off.

Only a few hours after he was discovered, Kelly Stephenson, 20, was found dead. Her body was suspended from a shower rail.

The latest suspected suicides will increase the intense debate over why the former mining town has such a high number of suicides among young people. All 16 victims who had apparently hanged themselves since January last year were aged between 15 and 27.

Fears of a suicide cult have been dismissed by local politicians and the police. But commentators continue to focus on the use of social networking websites by the victims, claiming that their deaths are glorified on tribute pages.

Nathaniel and Ms Stephenson lived 14 houses apart in Bridgend. Ms Stephenson was friendly with two of the previous victims. The cousins were members of the internet social networking sites Bebo and Facebook. Their friends used the networks to post messages such as “RIP” last night.

Nathaniel, the youngest of the 16 to die, was found in an attic room at the family home in Cefn Glas, Bridgend, police said. After he was taken to hospital his family told Ms Stephenson, who was on holiday with her family in Folkestone, Kent. In the early hours of Valentine’s Day she told a relative that she was going to the bathroom. Her body was discovered later.

Family members said that Ms Stephenson, a keen footballer, was particularly close to her cousin. On her Bebo site she described her biggest fear as “Losing the people I love”.

Writing in the “text-speak” that characterises many Bebo pages, she said: “I just love to live life to the full . . . Always up 4 a laugh and don’t like to takin things to serious! !”

A group has been set up in memory of Ms Stephenson on the website. It includes the message: “A great friend to all, will be sorely missed.”

Tributes were posted on Nathaniel’s Bebo site where he used the nickname Pritch. One said: “What happened m8? Going to miss you. Cannot believed what has happened. there is no better place for you than down here. But I will no now that u r safer up there m*. Sleep tight.”

One friend wrote a message on her own Facebook page saying that she was “very sad and wishes tha Nathaniel and Kelly were here wid us” (sic).

South Wales Police put out a statement again denying any link between the deaths. It said: “We were called to an address in the Cefn Glas area of Bridgend to a report that a 15-year-old boy had harmed himself. He has since died. There is no evidence to suggest this incident is linked to any other incidents in the area.”

Concern about a possible link between suicides and websites has been raised by organisations that include the Internet Watch Foundation. Websites that encourage suicide are not illegal in Britain.

Critics have claimed that social networking sites have not done enough to monitor the e-mail traffic between young people. A spokesman for Bebo said that the company had operated responsibly and was working closely with the authorities to monitor sites. “The loss of any young life is always distressing,” he said.

Philip Walters, the Coroner for Bridgend and the Glamorgan Valleys, said last week that he was concerned about young people committing suicide and wanted an all-Wales strategy to deal with the problem. He did not believe that the recent deaths were connected.

Madeleine Moon, the Labour MP for Bridgend, has called for more money to be spent on trying to halt the rising number of suicides. She told the Commons last week that the town was waiting for lottery funding for suicide-prevention schemes but that the money might not arrive until next year.

Despite the deaths in Bridgend, research by the department of social medicine at the University of Bristol showed this week that suicides among men aged between 15 to 24 in England and Wales have fallen to the lowest level for more than 30 years.




Others who died

Dale Crole, 18, hanged Jan 5
David Dilling, 19, hanged Feb 18
Thomas Davies, 20, hanged Feb 25
Allyn Price, 21, hanged April
James Knight, 26, hanged May 17
Leigh Jenkins, 22, hanged June 3
Zachery Barnes, 17, hanged Aug 11
Jason Williams, 21, hanged Aug 23
Andrew O'Neill, 19, hanged Sept 19
Luke Goodridge, 20, hanged Nov
Liam Clarke, 20, hanged Dec 27

Gareth Morgan, 27, hanged Jan
Natasha Randall, 17, hanged Jan 17
Angeline Fuller, 18, hanged Feb 4

    Confusion and sadness in Bridgend at suicide of two more youngsters, Ts, 16.2.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3378908.ece






A question of honour:

Police say 17,000 women

are victims every year


Ministers are stepping up the fight
against so-called 'honour' crime and forced marriages.
Detectives say official statistics
are 'merely the tip of the iceberg' of this phenomenon.
Brian Brady investigates


Sunday, 10 February 2008
The Independent on Sunday


Up to 17,000 women in Britain are being subjected to "honour" related violence, including murder, every year, according to police chiefs.

And official figures on forced marriages are the tip of the iceberg, says the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

It warns that the number of girls falling victim to forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the "honour" of their family is up to 35 times higher than official figures suggest.

The crisis, with children as young as 11 having been sent abroad to be married, has prompted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to call on British consular staff in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to take more action to identify and help British citizens believed to be the victims of forced marriages in recent years.

The Home Office is drawing up an action plan to tackle honour-based violence which "aims to improve the response of police and other agencies" and "ensure that victims are encouraged to come forward with the knowledge that they will receive the help and support they need". And a Civil Protection Bill coming into effect later this year will give courts greater guidance on dealing with forced marriages.

Commander Steve Allen, head of ACPO's honour-based violence unit, says the true toll of people falling victim to brutal ancient customs is "massively unreported" and far worse than is traditionally accepted. "We work on a figure which suggests it is about 500 cases shared between us and the Forced Marriage Unit per year," he said: "If the generally accepted statistic is that a victim will suffer 35 experiences of domestic violence before they report, then I suspect if you multiplied our reporting by 35 times you may be somewhere near where people's experience is at." His disturbing assessment, made to a committee of MPs last week, comes amid a series of gruesome murders and attacks on British women at the hands of their relatives.

Marilyn Mornington, a district judge and chair of the Domestic Violence Working Group, warned that fears of retribution, and the authorities' failure to understand the problem completely, meant the vast majority of victims were still too scared to come forward for help. In evidence to the home affairs committee, which is investigating the problem, she said: "We need a national strategy to identify the large number of pupils, particularly girls, missing from school registers who have been taken off the register and are said to be home schooled, which leads to these issues. Airport staff and other staff need to be trained to recognise girls who are being taken out of the country.

"We are bringing three girls a week back from Islamabad as victims of forced marriage. We know that is the tip of the iceberg, but that is the failure end. It has to be part of education within the communities and the children themselves."

Women who have been taken overseas to be married against their will are now being rescued on an almost daily basis. The Government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) handled approximately 400 cases last year – 167 of them leading to young Britons being helped back to the UK to escape unwanted partners overseas. And it is not just women who are affected. Home Office figures show that 15 per cent of cases involve men and boys.

In an attempt to crack down on the crimes being committed in the name of honour, police are to introduce a new training package that will give all officers instructions on handling honour cases. In addition, detectives are believed to be conducting a "cold case" style review of previous suicides amid suspicions that cases of honour killings are more common than previously thought.

Almost all victims of the most extreme crimes are women, killed in half of cases by their own husbands. Sometimes murders are carried out by other male relatives, or even hired killers. The fear that many thousands are left to endure honour violence alone may be supported by the disturbing details of the incidence of suicide within the British Asian community. Women aged 16 to 24 from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds are three times more likely to kill themselves than the national average for women of their age.

A report published last week by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that many women felt unable to defy their families and therefore "suffer violence, abuse, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems that can lead to self-harm, schizophrenia and suicide". James Brandon, co-author of Crimes of the Community: Honour-based Violence in the UK, said: "The Government is still not taking honour crime seriously. Until this happens, the ideas of honour which perpetuate this violence will continue to be passed on through generations. Religious leaders, local authorities and central government must work together to end such abuses of human rights."

The human cost of honour crime was vividly captured in a haunting video message from murdered Banaz Mahmood, who revealed how her own father had tried to kill her after she abandoned her arranged marriage and fell in love with another man. In the grainy message she told how he plied her with brandy – the first time she had ever drunk alcohol – pulled the curtains and asked her to turn around.

The 19-year-old fled, but less than a month after making the grainy video on a mobile phone, Banaz was dead. Her naked body was found buried in a yard in Birmingham in 2006, more than 100 miles from her London home. She had been raped and tortured by men hired by her uncle to kill her. Mahmood's father, uncle and one of her killers were sentenced to a total of 60 years in jail for the murder.

And the fatal potential of honour disputes was laid bare last month when a coroner said he was convinced that a Muslim teenager who feared she was being forced into an arranged marriage by her parents had suffered a "vile murder." Ian Smith said the concept of an arranged marriage was "central" to the circumstances leading up to the death of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed, whose decomposed body was discovered on the banks of the River Kent at Sedgwick, Cumbria, four years ago. After running away from home in February 2003, Shafilea told housing officers: "My parents are going to send me to Pakistan and I'll be married to someone and left there." The tragic story of the bright teenager who wanted to go to university and study law is far from the only example of the anguish suffered by British teenagers in recent years.

Toafiq Wahab, British consul in Dhaka, Bangladesh, recalls a "rescue mission" to recover a 17-year-old who called his office from Sylhet. "We had to track her down and 36 hours from taking that call, we had turned up at her house with an armed police escort," he said. "The house was filled with over 20 of her relations, most of whom were from Britain and stunned to see me. They obviously did not want her to leave. We simply asked her if she wanted to leave and go back to the UK in the presence of all her family and she agreed. I then spoke to the family and explained what we were doing and tried to make them understand. In the end, we had to get the police to assist in helping us to leave."

Former Bradford policeman Philip Balmforth, who works with vulnerable Asian women, said he saw 395 cases of forced marriage in the city last year. "I had a case of a 14-year-old girl at school," he recalled. "The teacher tells me that the girl claims to have been married. So I went along to the school with a Muslim colleague. We saw the girl. We asked her a few questions and we were not sure. Then the girl said: 'If you don't believe me I have the video at home.'"

In Bradford alone, a total of 250 girls aged between 13 and 16 were taken off the school rolls last year because they failed to return from trips abroad. Campaigners suspect many were victims of forced marriages.

"If contacted by concerned young British men and women in the UK, the FMU provides free and confidential advice on the potential dangers of being forced into marriage overseas and precautions to take to help avoid this happening," said a Foreign Office spokesperson last night. "If we learn that a British national overseas is being forced into marriage, or has already been forced into marriage, we look at various means of consular assistance ranging from action through the courts to rescue missions."

"The FMU can also help to arrange accommodation for victims for when they return to the UK and can refer victims to counselling and supports groups, legal centres, and so on.

"When it is necessary, the FMU and our embassies and high commissions work closely with the police and judiciary overseas in order to organise emergency rescue and repatriation missions."




Britain's hidden scandal


The kidnap victim

In June 2000 Narina Anwar, 29, and her two sisters claim they were tricked by their parents into going on a family holiday to a remote village in Pakistan, where they were held captive for five months in an attempt to force them to marry three illiterate villagers. The sisters fled to Lahore and contacted the British High Commission, which persuaded their parents to hand over their children's passports so they could return home.


The 'slave'

Gina Singh, 28, sued her former mother-in-law for £35,000 in 2006 after she was forced to work 17 hours a day around the house. Ms Singh, from Nottingham, was forbidden to leave the house on her own after an arranged marriage in 2002.

The runaway wife

In 1983, Zana Muhsen and her sister Nadia, from Birmingham, were pushed by their father to visit Yemen and forced to marry. Zana, now 35, escaped eight years later. Her father had sold her for a few thousand dollars. The experience is recounted in her book, 'Sold'.

The murder victim

Surjit Athwal disappeared with Bachan Athwal, her mother-in-law, after a family wedding in India in 1998. Her body was never found. Bachan later boasted that she arranged for her son, Sukhdave, to murder Surjit after finding out that she was having an affair.

The attempted suicide

Shafilea Ahmed was the victim of a suspected honour killing. The 17-year-old's body was found months after she had returned from a trip to Pakistan in 2003. On the trip she drank bleach. The coroner said he saw it as a 'desperate measure' to avoid a forced marriage.

    A question of honour: Police say 17,000 women are victims every year, IoS, 10.2.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/a-question-of-honour-police-say-17000-women-are-victims-every-year-780522.html






5.45pm GMT

Decapitated body found in London


Wednesday February 6, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Michael McDonough and agencies


Police launched a murder investigation today after a decapitated body was found near rubbish bins in north-west London.

Officers were called to Kingsgate Place in Kilburn after a member of the public found the adult male body stuffed in a supermarket storage cage. Police are searching for the head and a weapon.

The body was wrapped in blankets or a duvet and secured with duct tape, a Metropolitan police spokeswoman said.

The body was still at the crime scene this afternoon and forensic investigators were examining the contents of the rubbish bins and combing the vicinity.

Local resident Homayon Mahgerefteh, 50, said there had been several killings in the area in recent years. "This is, I think, the fifth person killed in this area in the last four years," he said. "It's not a safe area."

    Decapitated body found in London, G, 6.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2253440,00.html






4.15pm GMT update

Boy, 13, arrested over stabbing


Friday February 1, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Haroon Siddique and agencies

A 13-year-old boy was arrested today after a boy was stabbed at a school in Leeds, police said.

West Yorkshire police were called to Allerton Grange school in Moortown shortly before 9.30am after reports of the stabbing.

The injured boy, who is 14, was stabbed three times in his chest and stomach with a knife. Police said the attack happened in a classroom at the school.

He was taken to Leeds General Infirmary, where his condition was described as stable.

The 13-year-old is in police custody, a police spokeswoman said.

The school's chairman of governors, Richard Morris, described the attack as "highly unusual".

"Nothing like this has happened in the school before and it is all the more shocking because students' behaviour is normally of a high standard," he said

Morris said lessons were proceeding as normal and praised the school staff for their "calm and professional response". The National Union of Teachers, Britain's biggest classroom union, called on ministers to hold a summit on knife and gun crime.

"It is clear that too many youngsters are suffering as a result of violence involving weapons," said the general secretary, Steve Sinnott. "Many youngsters fear for their safety. I call upon the government to arrange a summit of education leaders and others to consider ways in which we can work together to tackle the culture of knives and guns."

Earlier this month, a 13-year-old girl was stabbed outside her school in south-east London. She was stabbed in her chest and thigh in the attack outside Sacred Heart school in Camberwell. The girl was discharged from hospital the same day after receiving stitches. A 14-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the attack and bailed pending further inquiries.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools faced a "difficult task" dealing with pupils carrying weapons but insisted they should not be "turned into fortresses".

He said search arches or metal detectors might be appropriate in "wholly exceptional" instances, but the decision should be left to the headteachers.

    Boy, 13, arrested over stabbing, G, 1.2.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2250835,00.html






3.45pm GMT

Suicide inquiry police

to re-examine 13 deaths


Friday January 25, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Paul Lewis

Senior detectives investigating a spate of young suicides in south Wales over the past year are to re-examine the files of 13 deaths in the area - including four cases that are officially closed.

Sources close to the investigation have told the Guardian that in the coming days detectives will look again at the files of 13 apparent suicides in search of similarities, amid concerns over the unexplained deaths.

In response to enquiries, South Wales police issued a statement saying: "We will be reviewing a number of cases of sudden deaths in the Bridgend area as part of the investigation process. At this stage, we can't confirm the number or further detail."

Philip Walters, the coroner with responsibility for Bridgend county borough, has identified 13 apparent suicides of people aged 27 and under.

Among the cases are five involving people aged between 21 and 27, three 20-year-olds, two 19-year-olds, an 18-year-old and two 17-year-olds. All are apparently unexplained and were within the space of a few miles.

Until now, officers have said only that they are investigating the apparent suicide of Natasha Randall, 17, who was found hanged in her bedroom at her home in Blaengarw, Bridgend, last week.

They said as part of their inquiries they would seek to establish Natasha's relationship with friends and would look through her computer as a matter of "routine".

Concern over possible links between suicide victims in the area have mounted this week after it was claimed that seven young people in the area who had hanged themselves were in some way connected.

    Suicide inquiry police to re-examine 13 deaths, G, 25.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2247070,00.html






Man arrested over Jessica stabbing


Wednesday, 23 January 2008
By James Watson, PA
The Independent


Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis announced the arrest in an interview with GMTV.

Jessica, 14, suffered multiple knife wounds after being attacked while walking through Astley Park in Chorley, Lancs, at around 5.15pm on Monday.

She is now fighting for her life in hospital amid reports she may have been stabbed up to 30 times.

Screams rang out, alerting members of the public, and a cyclist in the park found the youngster "covered in blood".

Two other people walking in the park helped the stricken teenager, who was given first aid before being rushed away by ambulance.

Jessica underwent five hours of emergency surgery at Chorley Hospital after the attack and is now in a stable, but critical, condition with her family at her bedside.

She was spotted by the cyclist lying unconscious on the pathway in the park.

A second man, Simon Corlson, 52, a project manager, dialled 999 on his mobile phone and then fetched a blanket from his car.

He said: "A policeman told me later that she'd been stabbed 30 times.

"But I only saw two of the wounds - one to her cheek, the other to her neck, pumping blood."

Police had warned residents to beware while the attacker was still on the loose.

Det Supt Steve Brunskill, leading the manhunt for Lancashire Police said Jessica had been spotted on CCTV visiting a local shop at around 5pm, before going to the park, a gathering place for youngsters.

He added: "This incident is extremely rare. This is a particularly nasty violent attack on a defenceless 14-year-old girl.

"I can't think of any motive. Until we find whoever is responsible, people should be cautious. The circumstances of it are we think it's a random attack.

"It is not a particularly discreet area, it's overlooked by properties on both sides and it's well-lit."

He said there was nothing in Jessica's background to suggest a motive and it was not a sex attack.

"The family are very distressed. As far as we are aware, this is a perfectly normal, happy child. It's mind-boggling how this can occur in this area.

"We are particularly interested in speaking to anyone in the area at that time. It is a busy time, people are walking dogs and coming home from work," he added.

Jessica was wearing a black hooded jacket with fur lining, blue jeans and white trainers.

He asked for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area over the last few weeks to come forward.

"I'm also interested in speaking to anybody who knows a person who came home on Monday in an agitated state or who may have been blood stained," he said.

"I am particularly interested to hear from anyone who may have seen any suspicious behaviour.

"At this early stage of the investigation we are unsure of the motive and would urge people in the area to take precautions for their own safety until this dangerous offender, or offenders, is caught."

Jean McGrath, head of Parklands High School in Chorley, where Jessica is a pupil, said, "We were all shocked and distressed to hear of the attack on Jessica.

"Her grandfather rang me at the school this morning and informed me and I went straight to the hospital where I spent time with her parents.

"I spoke to all our pupils telling them of the incident, thinking and praying for Jessica and reminding them to be extra vigilant with regard to their own safety.

"Jessica is a lovely, hard working girl. We hope and pray she will recover soon."

Detectives are now with the girl's family at the hospital waiting to speak to the teenager to try to piece together what happened.

Extra officers, including mounted officers and neighbourhood policing teams, will be on patrol in the area to reassure the public.

Forensic scenes of crime officers are now working to search the crime scene, a white tent covering the spot where the girl was attacked.

The area has council offices on one side and sheltered housing on the other. Astley Village is an affluent, semi-rural area north of Chorley.

Police stressed it was a low-crime area.

Laura Lennox, a councillor with Astley Parish Council, said, "It's not a path I would use on my own at night. It is very tragic that this should happen."

Don Cooke, 72, a retired train driver who lives in sheltered housing overlooking the crime scene, said, "I'm shocked to hear what's happened. School children cut through the park to go to school. We are used to hearing girls screaming and shouting so we don't take much notice."

Local resident Duggy Hope said locals had wanted the path through the park to be lit - but the local council decided not to.

"We have gangs of kids getting up to mischief but it's not bad around here. This is very rare. We have never seen anything like this before.

"They were going to put lighting up through the park but Chorley council knocked it back. There's a petition up about it."

Mr Hope's son, Matt, is in the same year as Jessica at her school.

He said, "I'm friends with one of her best mates, she was devastated, she was saying, 'Why would she walk through the park on her own?' Who would do such a thing?"'

The youngster said she was a popular girl with many friends. He said the friend told him Jessica had been listening to her iPod when she was attacked and stabbed 10 times.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said the 21-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

He said Jessica's condition was "critical but stable" today.

    Man arrested over Jessica stabbing, I, 23.1.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/man-arrested-over-jessica-stabbing-772563.html






12 45pm GMT

Coroner baffled at spate of suicides


Wednesday January 23 2008
David Batty, Jemima Kiss and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Wednesday January 23 2008.
It was last updated
at 15:01 on January 23 2008.


A coroner in south Wales said today he had "no idea" what lay behind the rising spate of suicides by young people in the area.

The comment by Philip Walters came as local police downplayed suggestion that they were investigating an internet "suicide chain" following claims that the deaths of seven young people were linked to the social networking site Bebo.

The latest victim, Natasha Randall, 17, was found dead at her family home in Blaengarw, near Bridgend last week. Two other teenage girls who knew her attempted to harm themselves the following day. Last night, one of them was still on a life support machine in hospital, while the second girl was discharged from hospital.

Police believe that all the victims may be linked, possibly because they met online.

Walters, the coroner for Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil, said the number of suicides in the area had been increasing "year on year" over the past three years.

He said: "There seems to be a larger number in Bridgend. The problem is that we've got these young suicides, but in very few cases do we get to the bottom of anything. I can't understand it.

"In the vast majority of these cases, we can't find any underlying reason for it. The thing that concerns us most of all is that we never know why."

South Wales police seized Natasha's computer and officers said they were attempting to trace any internet communication between the victims.

But a police spokeswoman denied that the force had ever said there was an established link between the deaths, which the tabloids have labelled "copycat suicides".

She said: "We have taken Natasha Randall's computer to see what kind of things she was saying and to build up a picture of what happened, rather than to investigate any specific site. That is a routine part of investigating a sudden death and we have never said we were looking at any internet sites."

The divisional commander of Bridgend police, Superintendent Tim Jones, said earlier there was no direct link between Randall's death and the suicide attempt made by a 15-year old girl in Pontycymmer on Friday.

He said police were tracing friends of the girls and visiting local parents

Over the past year six young men have killed themselves in the area, several of whom had posted profiles on the social networking website Bebo. Following their deaths other youngsters set up memorial sites where friends post messages and contribute a "virtual brick" to a "remembrance wall". Postings on the page for Natasha included messages reading: "RIP chick", "Sleep Tight Princess" and "Sweetdreams Angel".

Walters has already held inquests into the deaths of friends Dale Crole, David Dilling and Thomas Davies, but said there was nothing linking them to social networking sites.

He said: "The sites are global, so why would they cause an issue in Bridgend in particular?

"You can't link any of the deaths to these websites. There was no mention of them in any of the inquests that have already taken place."

Walters said an inquest into Natasha's death was opened and adjourned on Monday, and would be concluded later this year.

He said the cause of her death was not yet known, and added that he was awaiting toxicology reports, ordered in the case of every suspected suicide.

Before her death, Natasha, a first year student at Bridgend college, had also posted messages dedicated to people who had killed themselves. One message, dedicated to Liam Clarke, 20, who was found dead in a Bridgend Park on December 27, read: "Tasha Randall says: 'RIP Clarky boy!! gonna miss ya! always remember the gd times! love ya x' 'Me too!'"

Clarke was friends with another victim, Thomas Davies, 20, who killed himself just two days after the funeral of a third young man, David Dilling, 19, who also killed himself.

Yesterday, Davies' mother Melanie warned parents to keep a close eye on their children's internet use. She said: "I think the problem is they do not know how to speak like adults about serious issues like this. They can speak to each other on the computer but do not know how to express their emotions in other ways.

"Thomas would spend about three hours a night on the computer, talking to his friends. The thing is that most parents don't understand what they are doing or what they are talking about.

"He did go on Bebo and apparently he had a page on there. He must have discussed his other friends dying on there because it had upset him. Like most parents, I have no idea how to get on these sites or what other kids are talking about."

Police are also linking the deaths of Dale Crole, 18, of nearby Porthcawl, and Zachary Barnes, 17, of Bridgend, with the other deaths. Two weeks ago Gareth Morgan, 27, was found dead in his bedroom at his home in Bridgend.

A Bebo spokeswoman said: "The loss of any young life is always distressing. We will work closely with the authorities to provide any assistance which will help them with their investigations. We have close relationships with our member community, law enforcement agencies, and public safety partners to provide support and advice for our users. We are committed to providing our members with the safest possible environment online."

    Coroner baffled at spate of suicides, G, 23.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/jan/23/news1






10.30pm GMT

Second man charged over fatal flat stabbing


Friday January 11, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Staff and agencies

A second man has been charged with murdering a teenager who was stabbed to death in a suspected drug feud, police said tonight.

Faridon Alizada, 18, from Bexley, south-east London, was one of three teenagers attacked in a flat in Verona House, a tower block in Erith, early last Saturday morning.

Michael Harwood, of no fixed address, will appear before Barking magistrates tomorrow accused of his murder, Scotland Yard said.

Harwood, 32, has also been charged with the deliberate wounding of a 16-year-old during the same incident.

Earlier this week, Lee James, also 32 and of no fixed address, appeared at Bexleyheath magistrates court charged with Alizada's murder, the attempted murder of a 16-year-old boy and the deliberate wounding of another 16-year-old.

Neighbours in Verona House said the victims of the attack were three young Somali men who lived at the flat.

Alizada was the second teenager to be stabbed to death in the capital this year, after 17-year-old Henry Bolombi was murdered in Edmonton on New Year's Day. Last year, 27 teenagers were murdered in the London area.

    Second man charged over fatal flat stabbing, G, 11.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2239696,00.html






Background: Shafilea Ahmed

Ambitious teenager

torn between her future and family


Friday January 11, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
James Orr and agencies


The teenager Shafilea Ahmed was described as a bright and intelligent young woman who wanted to go to university and become a lawyer.

But the 17-year-old was "torn" between her ambitions, and her family and religion, her inquest at Kendal county hall in Cumbria heard.

The young girl, who received a traditional Pakistani upbringing, confided in her teachers that she feared being forced into an arranged marriage.

She later went missing from her family home in Warrington, Cheshire, in September 2003.

In February 2004, five months on, her badly decomposed body was found on the banks of the Kent river at Sedgwick, in Cumbria.

Ahmed was most likely strangled or suffocated, according to pathologists. No one has been charged over her death and her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, deny any involvement in her disappearance.

Giving evidence, Ahmed's friends and teachers revealed how the teenager had once arrived at school with a cut lip and bruising on her neck.

She allegedly said one of her parents had held her down while the other one beat her. Her father denied the claim.

Gill Power, Shafilea's form tutor at Great Sankey High School in Warrington, described her as "a really, really lovely girl.

"She was an angel. By Year 11 she was a really bright girl, doing well. Whatever she did she gave 100%." Joanne Code, the school's assistant head teacher, said: "Her aim in life was to become a solicitor and she wanted to go off to study law at university."

Song lyrics written by the teenager were found on the floor of her bedroom after her disappearance. In one song, Happy Families, she referred to a clash of cultures and her family's preoccupation with "honour".

She wrote: "I don't pretend like we're the perfect family no more. Desire to live is burning. My stomach is turning. But all they think about is honour."

In a second song, entitled I Feel Trapped, she wrote: "It was my last year in school, so happy with my friends I got lots to do. But came this day when everything changed, I came home it seemed like a normal day. But sumthing wasn't right. I feel trapped so trapped, I'm trapped."

Kerry Harper, a youth worker at Ahmed's school, met the youngster in January 2003.

She told the inquest how the girl was "genuinely worried" about the prospect of leaving the UK for an arranged marriage and life in Pakistan.

During a family trip to Pakistan that year, Ahmed drank a caustic substance, possibly bleach, and was taken to hospital.

The incident happened after she had been introduced to a possible suitor, the inquest heard. Three months after returning to the UK she vanished.

Referring to arranged marriages, her father told the inquest: "When you look at the children who are born here, whether they want to follow into our footsteps is a different thing.

"That's not something I can decide or someone can decide, that's for them to decide.

"I always ask to my kids, 'Whatever you decide to do with your lives I'm fully behind you'."

Cheshire police arrested Ahmed's parents on December 18 2004 on suspicion of kidnap. They were later released without charge.

    Ambitious teenager torn between her future and family, G, 11.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2239255,00.html







The disappearance of Shafilea Ahmed


Friday January 11, 2008
Guardian Unlimited


A murder investigation was launched after the discovery of Shafilea Ahmed's body on a Cumbrian river bank five months after she disappeared.

No one has been arrested in connection with her death.

Here are some key dates in the teenager's life and the investigation of her death.

October 3, 2002 Teachers learn that Shafilea is being held against her will at home and prevented from attending school. They speak to her father, and she is allowed to return to school

November Shafilea runs away from home for the first time. Her parents report her missing. She is found with her bags in a local park and has a meeting with her parents at school. She spends the night with a friend before returning home

January 31, 2003 Shafilea runs away from home

February 5 Shafilea registers as homeless, citing fears she will be forced into an arranged marriage in Pakistan

February 10 Shafilea returns home

February 18 Shafilea flies to Pakistan with her father and two siblings for a family holiday. While there she swallows bleach and is admitted to hospital

Late May Shafilea returns to the UK

September The teenager starts at Priestly College and begins a part-time call centre job

September 11 Shafilea goes missing from the family home in Warrington. Her disappearance is not reported by the family

September 18 Shafilea is reported missing by her former teacher Joanne Code after school friends raise concerns

December 18 Cheshire police arrest Shafilea's parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, on suspicion of kidnap. Five other relatives - members of the extended family - are arrested for perverting the course of justice. Everyone was later released without charge

February 4, 2004 Three workmen find a body on the banks of the River Kent in Sedgwick, Cumbria

February 23 Body is identified as that of Shafilea

February 24 Cheshire police launch a murder investigation

January 11, 2008 Four-day inquest into Shafilea's death concludes with a verdict of unlawful killing

    Timeline: The disappearance of Shafilea Ahmed, G, 11.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2239284,00.html






2.30pm GMT update

Muslim teenager unlawfully killed


Friday January 11, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
James Orr and agencies


The Muslim teenager Shafilea Ahmed, whose body was found on the banks of a river, was unlawfully killed, a coroner ruled today.

The 17-year-old, who claimed she was under pressure from her parents to agree to an arranged marriage, went missing from her home in September 2003.

Five months later, her badly decomposed body was discovered by the River Kent at Sedgwick, Cumbria.

Police launched a murder inquiry and arrested her parents on suspicion of kidnapping the Warrington teenager, but both were released without charge.

Ian Smith, the coroner for east and south Cumbria, told the inquest: "Shafilea was the victim of a very vile murder.

"I'm convinced of that because of the way in which the body was disposed, it had been hidden and she had been taken many miles away from home.

"I do not know who did it. There's no evidence before the court as to who did it.

"I sincerely hope in the future, inquiries will be carried out by the police and they will one day discover who did it because this young woman has not had justice."

Delivering his verdict at the end of the four-day inquest in Kendal, Smith said he believed Shafilea had died within a few hours of leaving work on the night of September 11 2003.

He could not state where she died but said he was "very confident" it was not on the river bank.

"I do not believe she escaped and ran away. She was taken," he added.

Smith said he believed the concept of an arranged marriage was "central" to the circumstances leading up to the tragedy.

Shafilea had become a "frightened young woman" following a phone conversation in 2002 between her father, Iftikhar, and his uncle.

They had discussed a possible arranged marriage between Shafilea and the uncle's son.

Her father told the hearing that such an arrangement needed the consent of the boy and girl but the coroner said he believed the "greater family" had more say on the issue and could impose pressure for it go ahead.

He said: "She [Shafilea] did not want to be married, full stop, at this point. She did not want to marry someone she did not know or may not like.

"She wanted to forge ahead with a career, she did not want to stop her studies and she did not want to live abroad. Rightly or wrongly, she feared all these things might happen."

Shafilea saw a planned family trip to Pakistan in February 2003, in which she feared she would be married off by her parents, as a threat to her future and the end of her freedom, Smith said.

"Her ambition was to live her own life in her own way. To study, to follow a career in the law and to do what she wanted to do," he said.

Despite hearing a great deal of evidence from friends and teachers during the inquest at County Hall, authorities remain unclear as to how the youngster died.

Ruling the cause of death as "unascertained", Smith said he was satisfied she did not die of natural causes or suicide.

A pathologist, Dr Alison Armour, told the hearing the most likely cause was by smothering or strangling.

Smith said there was nothing to support such conjecture and it could only be treated as speculation.

Investigating officer Superintendent Geraint Jones, of Cheshire police, said: "We offer our condolences to everyone who knew and cared for Shafilea.

"Any death is tragic, but Shafilea's unnecessary and cruel death is particularly sad. This remains a live murder inquiry."

    Muslim teenager unlawfully killed, G, 11.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2239258,00.html






Girl found dead in river

'had feared a forced marriage'

· Death not natural causes, pathologist tells inquest
· Nobody charged despite police murder inquiry


Wednesday January 9, 2008
Helen Carter

The parents of a 17-year-old girl whose badly decomposed body was found in a river may have been trying to force her into marriage against her will, an inquest heard yesterday.

Shafilea Ahmed disappeared from her home in Warrington, Cheshire, four months after a family trip to Pakistan, on which she was introduced to a potential suitor. During the holiday she drank bleach and self-harmed in an apparent cry for help. The inquest was also told of reports that she had been subjected to domestic abuse at home. Police launched a murder inquiry after her body was found concealed in undergrowth in February 2004, after the river Kent in Sedgwick, Cumbria, was swollen by floods.

Shafilea's father, Iftikhar Ahmed, 48, and his wife Farzana, 45, vehemently deny any involvement in their daughter's disappearance or death and claim they were victims of racial stereotyping. Detective Superintendent Geraint Jones, who led the murder inquiry, told the inquest in Kendal that her parents had been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping in December 2003, but were released without charge. Suspicions had been aroused by statements from people who knew Shafilea claiming that she was "subject to domestic abuse and potential for forced marriage". He said there was reason to "suspect her family of involvement in her disappearance".

Shafilea had run away from home in February 2003, apparently because of concerns she would be made to marry a man of her parents' choice during a trip to Pakistan later in the year. Her parents called the police to report her missing. During that time the police were called when witnesses saw her father try to force Shafilea into a car outside her school.

Jones said Shafilea had told several different people and professionals that she was "frightened of being forced into marriage". Iftikhar Ahmed reassured police that there would be no forced marriage and the planned trip to Pakistan was to be a family holiday. But after the Pakistan trip her parents had come back to Warrington without her, cashing in Shafilea's return ticket to Manchester.

She remained in Pakistan until June, where she drank bleach and self-harmed. On her return to the UK she spent several weeks in hospital. But by September 2003 she had enrolled at a sixth form college, was making friends and had a part-time job before she disappeared for the last time. She was reported missing to police by a former teacher at Great Sankey high school who overheard her younger siblings talking about her disappearance. Other family members, in Bradford, were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

When she first went missing in February 2003 her family phoned and texted her, "pleading with her to come home." But after her second disappearance there were no such messages, Jones said. "We were really desperate to find her but we just knew that we were dealing with a body and not a live person. One possible hypothesis is here is a girl who isn't conforming with what the family wants. The next stage is to carry out a murder."

Dr Alison Armour, a Home Office pathologist, said it was "not credible" that the teenager died of natural causes. The remains were badly decomposed and the skull and organs were missing, so she was unable to ascertain a cause of death. However, a natural cause was "unsustainable because of the concealment of the body on the riverbank. The most likely cause of death would be smothering or strangulation." Iftikhar Ahmed told the south and east Cumbria coroner, Ian Smith, that the family had been proud of Shafilea's achievements and ambitions to be a lawyer. She was a bright child, but problems arose when she began sixth form.

Smith asked Ahmed what kind of person his daughter was. "She was a very normal child, very bright. The problems arose when she became in the sixth form." Nobody has been charged with her murder and her parents offered a £5,000 reward to catch the killer. Cheshire police released poems Shafilea had written in which she expressed her frustration at her life and her family's preoccupation with honour.

Heather Gibbon and her mother Inez Byrom, who live in Sedgwick, told the inquest they noticed a white Transit type van parked "oddly" in a layby near the river around the time of Shafilea's disappearance in September 2003. Weeks later they noticed an atrocious smell from the layby as they walked their dogs. Anthony Kitchen, a highways worker who discovered the body, said: "My first impression was it was a first aid doll."

The hearing continues.

    Girl found dead in river 'had feared a forced marriage', G, 9.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2237439,00.html






Man shot dead at wheel of car

is latest victim

of north-west's violent weekend

· Police say killing was not result of random attack
· Victim found dying after head-on collision


Monday January 7, 2008
Martin Wainwright


A man was shot dead through the windscreen of his car as he drove along a busy road in Merseyside, police said yesterday. The incident continued a disastrous start to the new year in the north-west of England, with a second victim shot in Liverpool city centre and a third shot in the leg in a Manchester park.

The shootings came less than a week after a woman police officer was wounded by a gunman near Preston, and the death of another Manchester man who was taken to hospital in a blood-soaked car with two friends also suffering from bullet wounds.

Detectives investigating the driver who was killed behind the wheel of his gold Land Rover at 9.15pm on Saturday made house-to-house inquiries in the Halewood area of Merseyside yesterday. The 35-year-old man was named locally as Derek Stevens. Merseyside police said formal identification was likely to come today after a postmortem examination.

Traffic police and paramedics were originally called to the scene after the vehicle careered head-on into another car, and found that the driver was dying from a shot to the head. The single bullet hole in the windscreen of the Land Rover Discovery could clearly be seen.

The victim lived near the busy stretch of Mackets Lane, where the incident happened.

Chief Superintendent John Young, the area commander of Knowsley for Merseyside police, said: "We don't think it's a random shooting."

The victim's body was still in the Land Rover for much of yesterday as specialist officers worked out the likely angle of the shot and where the gunman had been.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Wadmore said: "We are carrying out extensive inquiries to build up a picture of events leading up to this incident and we are appealing to the public to come forward with any information."

The 36-year-old man driving the other car, a silver Ford Focus, was treated at the scene for whiplash injuries, but did not need hospital treatment. It is thought that the Land Rover slewed out of control into his path immediately after the shooting.

Streets round the Mackets Lane junction with Yew Tree Road, not far from the Ford plant at Halewood, remain sealed off for forensic science checks and drivers were asked to avoid the area.

Wadmore said: "Mackets Lane is a busy thoroughfare and there is a parade of shops close to the junction with Yew Tree Road. If anyone saw people acting suspiciously or any other vehicles in the area at that time, please contact us and tell us."

A local resident said that the attack was highly unusual and that there was not a gun problem in Halewood: "I wouldn't live here if there was."

Police said they were not linking the shooting with other recent firearms incidents, including an attack on a 21-year-old at his home in Liverpool's Kensington area on Saturday night. Several men forced their way into the house at 9pm and shot the man in the leg before driving off in a white Transit van. The victim was taken to hospital, but his injuries were described as "not life-threatening".

Merseyside police said: "We believe that this is a targeted attack, although the motive is not yet clear."

Greater Manchester police, meanwhile, are appealing for witnesses after a shooting in a park at Cringle Fields, Burnage, at 8.20pm on Saturday. The 25-year-old victim, who lives locally, has been discharged from Manchester Royal Infirmary after treatment for leg injuries.

    Man shot dead at wheel of car is latest victim of north-west's violent weekend, G, 7.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2236397,00.html






Call for tough knife laws

after teen death

Senior officer urges mandatory jail terms
after second death in six days


Sunday January 6, 2008
Mark Townsend, crime correspondent

Police arrested two men last night in connection with London's second teenage murder of the new year. The arrests came amid fresh demands for tougher laws to tackle the capital's growing problem of knife crime.

This latest tragedy triggered calls for stricter sentences for knife possession, since 27 teenagers were killed in shootings and stabbings in London last year. Police were called to a tower block in Erith, south-east London, at around 3am yesterday following reports of an 'altercation' and found a teenager dead and two others with stab wounds.

As forensic teams continued their search for the murder weapon, detectives were investigating reports of an argument with suspects who then fled the flat on the Larner Road estate where the stabbings took place. One teenager remains in a serious condition at the Royal London Hospital, while the other has been discharged.

Residents said the block of flats at the centre of London's latest murder inquiry had become a meeting area for gangs and should have been demolished years ago. Others described a gang known as RA, standing for Rebel Assault, which had been terrorising the neighbourhood. Police believe the attack was gang-related.

Norman Brennan, of the Knives Destroy Lives Campaign, reiterated his demand for a mandatory five-year prison sentence for anyone who carries a knife unreasonably. His call came as Islington borough police commander Bob Carr called for automatic prison sentences for anyone found carrying a knife.

On New Year's Day, 17-year-old Henry Bolombi was also fatally stabbed following an argument. Hours after celebrating the New Year, Bolombi was chased by a group of youths and stabbed in Edmonton, north London.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will unveil new plans today to crack down on crime. One initiative will be to outlaw deactivated guns which are converted by criminals into firearms.

    Call for tough knife laws after teen death, O, 6.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2236021,00.html






3.30pm GMT

Police hunt gunman

after triple shooting


Tuesday January 1, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Matthew Weaver and agencies

A murder hunt for a lone gunman was under way today after three men were shot in Manchester last night.

The men drove themselves to North Manchester general hospital yesterday shortly after 6pm.

One of the injured, aged 26 from Crumpsall, was pronounced dead after they arrived. He was not named.

A second man, aged 27, suffered serious back injuries and was later transferred to an unidentified hospital. A third victim suffered minor injuries.

A fourth man who was also in the car escaped unharmed.

Greater Manchester police said today the men were inside a car on Huxley Avenue, Crumpsall, at around 5.30pm yesterday when a lone gunman fired shots at them before escaping on foot.

Police appealed for anyone with information to call the major incident room on 0161 856 4343 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

    Police hunt gunman after triple shooting, G, 1.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2233916,00.html






3pm GMT

Three arrested over Leicester killing


Tuesday January 1, 2008
Guardian Unlimited
Matthew Weaver


A 14-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl have been arrested following the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy in Leicester today.

The 16-year-old boy was discovered dead on Fosse Road South in the Westcotes area, south east of the city centre.

A 31-year-old woman has also been arrested in connection with the incident.

Police had been called to the street following the report of an assault just after 5am.

The area has been cordoned off for forensic examination and a post mortem examination is due to take place later this afternoon. Formal identification has not yet taken place.

Detective chief inspector Phil Smith, who is leading the investigation, said: "We are in the very early stages of the investigation and are trying to piece together exactly what happened.

"I would appeal to anyone who witnessed the incident, was in the area at the time or has any information that could help with our investigation to get in touch urgently."

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Leicestershire Constabulary on 0116 222 2222.

· In another fatal stabbing, an 18-year-old man knifed this morning in Edmonton, north London, as he made his way home from New Year's Eve celebrations in the centre of the capital, Scotland Yard said.

Three arrested over Leicester killing, G, 1.1.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2233892,00.html




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