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Mohammad Shafia is led into court in Kingston Ontario on Tuesday October 11, 2011. (Lars Hagberg/Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)
Mohammad Shafia is led into court in Kingston Ontario on Tuesday October 11, 2011. (Lars Hagberg/Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Father accused of honour killings called eldest daughter a 'whore' Add to ...

In the days leading up to the July, 2009, arrest of an Afghan-Canadian businessman and his wife and son, all accused of jointly murdering four family members, the man’s conscience was clear because the victims had violated every decent principle, he said in wiretapped conversations.

“It was all treason, they committed treason from beginning to end,” Mohammad Shafia told the other two accused, as police listened in. “They betrayed humankind, they betrayed Islam, they betrayed our religion and creed, they betrayed our tradition, they betrayed everything.”

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In other wiretapped remarks, Mr. Shafia singled out his eldest dead daughter for particular abuse: “Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?”

Mr. Shafia said, moreover, that he would do the same thing again, “even if God forbid, they hoist us onto the gallows.”

Yet at the same time, the family patriarch seemed to see himself as tolerant.

“We were not a strict family, we were kind of a liberal family,” he told his wife as they drove back to Montreal from Kingston, a police eavesdropping device surreptitiously installed.

Mr. Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son, Hamed Shafia, each face four counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of the couple’s three teenaged daughters – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – and Rona Amir Mohammad, Mr. Shafia’s 53-year-old first wife, in a clandestine polygamous marriage.

Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston, as the 10-member family returned to their Montreal home from a short vacation in Niagara Falls.

Eighteen days later, as police listened in on a bug placed in one of their cars, Mr. Shafia and the other two accused said they knew Kingston police were circling, but were hopeful their investigation would be fruitless. Bluffing, the Kingston police had told them a video camera at the lock might have captured events that night, but Tooba Mohammad Yahya was skeptical.

“There was no camera, I looked around, there wasn’t any,” she said.

Her husband concurred. “Had there been one they would have checked it first thing and they would have held you to account that night.”

But it was becoming increasingly evident to the trio the investigators were not going to go away.

In varying accounts of events, they insisted to Kingston police that a dreadful accident had occurred, but detectives swiftly suspected the incident had been clumsily staged, and that the submerged Nissan Sentra had in fact been pushed into the water by the family’s second car, a Lexus.

Autopsies found that all four women drowned, but where and when has never been clear. Three of the victims had fresh bruises on their heads, and police believe all were dead before the Nissan tipped into the water.

The core of the prosecution case is that the multiple deaths were a so-called “honour killing,” inflicted in a bid to salvage the family’s “honour,” marred by the rebellious, independent-minded conduct of the three Shafia sisters, in particular the dating habits of the oldest two.

Rona Amir Mohammad, the first wife, who joined the rest of the family four months after they immigrated in June, 2007, ostensibly as Mr. Shafia’s cousin, was murdered as the final act of a long-simmering rivalry between the two wives, prosecutors contend.

Her diary paints a picture of misery in which she and the three dead sisters lived in a dysfunctional household marked by isolation and constant abuse at the hands of the three accused.

Since the trial opened Oct. 20 at the Frontenac County Court House, the seven-woman, five-man jury has listened to an array of compelling prosecution evidence, including testimony from Mr. Shafia’s brother-in-law, who recounted a conversation with Mr. Shafia several weeks before the deaths in which the father sought his help in a plot to murder Zainab, the oldest daughter, with whom he was particularly enraged.

When his wife says on a wiretap it’s been suggested he was unduly meddlesome in Zainab’s affairs, he erupts.

“For God’s sake, why do you say this,” Mr. Shafia exclaims to her. “What affair of hers did I meddle in? You tell me.”

The Shafias have three other children, placed in care the day before their parents’ arrest, while the Montreal house was being searched. All seven siblings were the biological children of Tooba Mohammad Yahya.

The jury also watched a video of Hamed Mohammad being interrogated by Sergeant Mike Boyles of Kingston police, a few hours after the trio had been charged with murder.

The sergeant focuses on the return trip from Niagara Falls to Kingston, where the family stopped for the night. The three accused had told police that the four people later to be found drowned stayed behind in the Nissan, with Tooba Mohammad Yahya at the wheel.

They parked somewhere nearby, it was said, while Mr. Shafia, his son and the three youngest children set off to find accommodation.

But Hamed Mohammad was strikingly vague as to where that spot was. He nonetheless insisted the family met up soon afterward, and that aside from himself – he had to hurry back to Montreal on business – all the other nine members of the party stayed at the motel.

Not until his father called him in the morning, he told Sgt. Boyles, did he learn that the three sisters and Rona Amir Mohammad had mysteriously vanished.

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