Family convicted over Huddersfield woman left unconscious for eight years

Clara Street Huddersfield
The woman lived with her extended family on Clara Street in Huddersfield. Credit: MEN Media

The husband of a woman left in a vegetative state for eight years has been convicted over failing to seek medical help when she initially fell unconscious.

Ambreen Fatima Sheikh, from Huddersfield, has been unresponsive since she lost consciousness in July 2015.

Leeds Crown Court heard her family failed to call an ambulance for three days.

Her husband Asgar Sheikh, 30, father-in-law Khalid Sheikh, 55, mother-in-law Shabnam Sheikh, 53, and brother and sister-in-law Shakalayne, 24, and Shagufa Sheikh, 29, have been on trial charged with causing or allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical harm.

The jury took just over 10 hours to find all but Shakalayne Sheikh guilty.

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

The court heard Ambreen Sheikh was said not to have met "expectations" as a wife after marrying Asgar Sheikh.

Prosecutor Robert Steen Smith said she arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 2014 after their arranged marriage.

She moved into the family home - where she lived with all five defendants - in Clara Street.

At the opening of the trial, Mr Smith told the jury: "At first the marriage appears to be one without any apparent problems... [but] within months of her arrival she wasn't meeting the expectations of her husband or family.

"She eventually became socially isolated. The prosecution contend that she had been - by the end of July 2015 - a vulnerable person."

The court heard Shagufa Sheikh called for an ambulance after 1am on 1 August 2015 because her sister could not breathe properly.

Mr Smith said: "Staff asked what had happened and they were told by Shagufa that she [Ambreen] had stopped talking to them at midnight and had become unresponsive.

"They were asked why the call hadn't been made sooner. Shagufa changed her account and said it had been 1am when she had stopped talking to them. She told them she had been suffering from headaches for at least three days and had been unwell and spent most of that day in bed."

Ambreen was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and was put onto the intensive care ward. A scan found swelling on her brain.

The next day a "severe" burn, thought to have been caused by a caustic substance, was found on her lower back.Asgar Sheikh told doctors Ambreen had been "going to bed with headaches for at least two days".

Mr Smith told the jury: "He told them he couldn't think of any reason why she would have damage [to her lower back].

"It is quite obvious - you may think - her husband or any other responsible person living in that household who became aware of that burn could be expected to arrange medical treatment for her or to ask members of the family do so do...It would have been painful at some stage and it is inconceivable that the household were unaware of it."

Mr Smith described her as being in a "vegetative state" and unable to communicate.

He added: "She will never recover and is at risk of death as a result."

The prosecution said it was likely one of the relatives had caused become unconscious well before the ambulance was called and that she was likely blacked out for up to three days before it arrived.

"She had been vomiting and had been incontinent of urine and steps were taken by one or more of the defendants to try and conceal that fact," Mr Smith said.

He added: "At some stage, one or more of the defendants had removed her soiled clothing, cleaned her body and dressed her and carried her into the other bedroom. The ambulance staff were then presented with a false account that she had suddenly suffered breathing difficulties having been unwell with a headache for three days.

The court heard that further examination of Ambreen's body found a number of other injuries including one to her right ear and "signs on her back which appeared to be areas of caustic burning".

Mr Smith added: "She also showed signs of marks on her toes which may have been consistent with a period of prolonged immobility."The family will be sentenced at a later date.

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