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Court fight over girl's remains

A divorced couple have staged a High Court fight after failing to agree on what should happen to the remains of their 24-year-old daughter.

Student Ayesha Khan, of Upper Norwood, south east London, died earlier this month after developing a brain tumour, a judge heard.

Her mother Helen Fox, 45, also of Upper Norwood, south east London, wanted her to be cremated. Her father Mohammed Khan, 50, of Reading, Berkshire, wanted her to be buried.

Mr Justice Keehan today ruled that Miss Khan should be cremated after analysing evidence at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The judge, who said everyone involved could be identified, described the dispute as "desperately sad".

Miss Fox, a library assistant, told the judge that she and Mr Khan, a computer processor, had divorced 20 years ago and that she had brought up their daughter.

She said Miss Khan had been educated at a Church of England school and had wanted to be cremated.

Mr Khan, a Muslim, had religious objections to cremation. He said Miss Khan was not a practising Muslim but he said she had not changed her Muslim name.

And he said he believed that cremation would cause his daughter pain.

He told the court: "I do not believe in cremation."

And he asked Miss Fox: "Why would you want to put her through any more pain by cremating her?"

Miss Fox said she was following her daughter's wishes.

"I feel it would be quicker this way than it would be for her to be rotting in the ground for 20 years," said Miss Fox.

"I don't believe she would be in pain. I believe her spirit has already left her body."

She added: "It is not about what you (Mr Khan) believe. It is what Ayesha believed."

Miss Fox said she had offered to divide her daughter's ashes into two caskets so that Mr Khan could bury one casket.

But she said Mr Khan had not accepted the compromise.

Mr Justice Keehan said the couple were in dispute over how much involvement Mr Khan had with his daughter.

The judge said Mr Khan had been in contact with Miss Khan towards the end of her life, but he had had no contact with her for an eight-year period.

He said Miss Fox had cared for Miss Khan and been involved throughout her life, and he said he preferred Miss Fox's "approach".

"Whilst Ayesha may nominally have been a Muslim, she never practised as a Muslim," he said.

"In my judgment, the proper course is that Ayesha's expressed wishes should be adhered to and respected."

He told the couple: "I am very sorry that you have had to go through this process after suffering the trauma of the loss of your daughter."

Miss Fox said Miss Khan had studied nutrition at the University of Hertfordshire. The judge was told that she had been planning to marry and live in China.

The judge said Mr Khan had launched the legal action - and sought an order that his daughter should be buried.

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