Family jailed after leaving arranged bride in vegetative state by dousing her in chemicals and force-feeding her pills

14 February 2024, 13:53

Asgar, Khalid and Shabnam Sheikh have been jailed
Asgar, Khalid and Shabnam Sheikh have been jailed. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

By Kit Heren

Several members of the same family have been jailed after an arranged bride from Pakistan was doused in a chemical substance and force-fed her pills that gave her severe brain damage.

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Ambreen Fatima Sheikh was given the diabetes drug glimepiride by members of the Sheikh family in Huddersfield, in west Yorkshire. Even a small dose of the drug can be extremely dangerous to people who don't have diabetes.

Ms Sheikh, aged 30 at the time of the assaults in 2015, also had a corrosive substance, probably some kind of cleaning fluid, poured over her.

Asgar Sheikh, 31, his father Khalid Sheikh, 55, his mother Shabnam Sheikh, 52, and his sister Shagufa Sheikh, 29, were all found guilty of allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer physical harm in a trial last year.

Asgar Sheikh, Khalid Sheikh, 55, and Shabnam Sheikh, 52 were jailed for seven years and nine months.

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Asgar Sheikh
Asgar Sheikh. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

Asgar Sheikh's brother, Sakalayne Sheikh, 25, was given a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, and Shagufa Sheikh, 29, was given an 18-month sentence, also suspended for two years.

Ambreen Fatima Sheikh was hospitalised on August 1 2015, when the family called an ambulance between two and three days after she fell unconscious.

Her ventilator was eventually turned off and doctors thought she would die, but she began breathing independently.

But she has been left unaware of herself or what is going on around her. She does not have motor responses, nor does she respond to pain.

She will never recover and is fed through a tube. Her injuries will eventually kill her, but she may live for decades to come.

Khalid Sheikh
Khalid Sheikh. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

Sentencing judge Mrs Justice Lambert said: "It is difficult to imagine a more serious injury, short of death."

Ms Sheikh had an arranged marriage to Asgar Sheikh in Pakistan, and then came to the family's home in Clara Steet, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in 2014.

She rarely left the house and never went out alone. She had no friends in the UK, no independent income, and could speak only a little English.

It is unclear when the abuse began, and none of the family gave evidence in court.

The family appeared to be unhappy with how Ms Sheikh performed housework, the jury heard, and suggested she should be sent back to Pakistan.

Shabnam Sheikh
Shabnam Sheikh. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

Police carried out a welfare check and reported Ms Sheikh fit and well, after members of the extended family raised concerns the month before she died.

But the judge said that she attached "little weight to that assessment" because of Ms Sheikh's poor English, also noting that her father-in-law was present during the visit.

The judge added that she did not know who administered the corrosive substance, which left severe burns on Ms Sheikh's lower back, bottom and right ear, and must have left her in considerable and lasting pain.

And she said she did not know who "tricked or forced" her to take the glimpiride, which was prescribed to Shabnam Sheikh and is extremely dangerous to non-diabetics, even in small doses.

The judge said that the family lied about what had happened to their victim, even when the family called 999.

"You would all have been aware of her pain and distress," she said.

"It's just not realistic to conclude that you did not all know of Ambreen's predicament and her desperate need for emergency medical care.

"You all also knew why she was in that condition."

Asgar, Shabnam and Shagufa Sheikh were also found guilty of doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice.

All five defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Ms Sheikh is now being looked after in a palliative care setting and will not recover but could live for decades more.

She was in good health before her collapse and there is some evidence that she was a teacher in Pakistan, the court heard.

One witness said she was "intelligent, bright, ambitious and happy-go-lucky" before she moved to the UK, and the judge said she was someone who would "light up a room".

The judge said Ms Sheikh's father is now dead and her mother is in poor health in Pakistan.

She has seven siblings and one of her brothers has been over to visit her.

DCI Matthew Holdsworth of West Yorkshire Police's homicide and major enquiry team said: "This has been an awful case in which a young, healthy woman has been catastrophically injured and robbed of her future by the very people she should have expected to protect her.

"While Ambreen still technically lives, it is tragically believed she may never regain consciousness.

"I am grateful that justice has at least been delivered for Ambreen today and that those responsible for her suffering have been punished for the truly wicked offences they committed."