Three jailed after Huddersfield arranged marriage bride abused, burnt and left in vegetative state

L-R: Asgar, Khalid and Shabnam Sheikh have all been sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison. Credit: West Yorkshire Police

A man has been jailed along with his parents after his wife was forced to take medication and doused with a corrosive substance, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state from which she will never recover.

Ambreen Fatima Sheikh was 30 when she was given the anti-diabetes drug glimepiride, which induced catastrophic brain injury, after she was brought to the UK from Pakistan following an arranged marriage, Leeds Crown Court heard.

The trial heard there had then been a two to three delay before the family called an ambulance after she collapsed, which may have exacerbated her brain injury.

Mrs Sheikh was also doused in a caustic substance at the family home in Huddersfield, probably some kind of cleaning fluid, as she was abused in the house in the days leading up to her admission to hospital on 1 August 2015.

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

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

All four defendants plus Asgar and Shagufa's brother, Sakalyne Sheikh, 25, were found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Only the month before Mrs Sheikh's admission to hospital, two police officers had visited the home following concerns for her welfare, but they reported her as being fit and well.

However, Judge Mrs Justice Lambert said she attached "little weight to that assessment" because Mrs Sheikh spoke little English and her father-in-law was present during the visit.

It was initially thought Mrs Sheikh, who is now 39, would die but, when her ventilator was turned off in hospital, she began to breathe for herself.

The court heard that she has been left unaware of herself or her environment, without motor response or response to pain, and will never recover.

Prosecutors said she only survives by being fed through a tube and will eventually die as a consequence of what happened to her, although this may not happen for many years.

Judge Lambert said: "It is difficult to imagine a more serious injury, short of death."

Ambreen lived with her extended family on Clara Street in Huddersfield.

The court heard that Mrs Sheikh came to the family's home in Clara Steet, Huddersfield, in 2014 after an earlier arranged marriage with Asgar in Pakistan.

The judge said she rarely left the house and never by herself. She had no independent income, no friends in the UK and could speak only a little English.

None of the family gave evidence in court and the judge said she could not say for sure when the abuse began.

The trial heard evidence that, soon after Ms Sheikh arrived in the UK, the family were not happy with her housework and chores, and Khalid Sheikh had suggested she should be sent back to Pakistan.

Judge Lambert said 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 glimepiride, which was prescribed to Shabnam Sheikh and is extremely dangerous to non-diabetics, even in small doses.

The judge decided there was a two to three-day delay between Ms Sheikh falling unconscious and the family calling an ambulance, during which she became highly dehydrated and inhaled fluids which may have exacerbated her brain injury.

Even when the family called 999, they lied about what had happened to her.

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

The court heard that 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 was 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 Mrs 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.

The offence of allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer physical harm carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison at the time of the offence but this has since been increased by Parliament to 14 years.

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

Shagufa Sheikh was given an 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, while Sakalayne Sheikh was given a six-month sentence, also suspended for two years.

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