Toronto family physician Elana Fric-Shamji was "seriously assaulted" by her husband, prominent neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji, just weeks before she was found dead and he was charged with first-degree murder, new court documents allege.
Dr. Shamji, once a medical star with degrees from Yale, Duke and Queen's who worked at Toronto Western Hospital, is now in jail awaiting a trial for allegedly attacking and strangling his wife. His lawyers say he intends to plead not guilty.
A recent filing in civil proceedings over the couple's remaining assets suggests serious problems lurked beneath the couple's outwardly successful veneer, and reared up in the weeks before Dr. Fric-Shamji's death.
Read more: Toronto doctor's killing shocks medical community
In October, 2016, less than two months before his wife's murder, Dr. Shamji allegedly committed a "serious assault" against her, according to documents filed by the victim's parents, who are caring for the couple's three children, ages 12, 9 and 3. No other details about the allegation are included in the documents.
The alleged attack prompted Dr. Fric-Shamji, 40, to go ahead with a divorce, something she shared with family and friends and had told her husband, the documents say. She had her lawyer send him a formal letter via e-mail requesting details of his financial assets, dated Nov. 28.
"Elana's preference is to attempt to resolve all issues amicably and expeditiously and to avoid litigation, if at all possible," the lawyer's letter reads.
Three days later, on Dec. 1, she was found dead by a roadside in Vaughan, north of Toronto, stuffed in a suitcase.
According to the court documents, Dr. Fric-Shamji started legal consultations about separating from her husband in May, 2016, when she "learned that Dr. Shamji was involved with another woman."
The documents, filed by lawyers for Dr. Fric-Shamji's parents, Ana and Joseph Fric, were submitted as part of an application demanding a broadening of a freeze order on Dr. Shamji's assets and permission to list the couple's North York home, where the Frics have been caring for the children, for $2.5-million. A court hearing is scheduled for April 12. Daniel Melamed, a lawyer for Dr. Shamji in the civil proceeding, declined to comment. A lawyer who acts for the Frics was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
The Frics are asking to split the proceeds of the house sale between Dr. Fric-Shamji's estate and lawyers for Dr. Shamji, with a $50,000 advance to cover the Frics' legal costs.
The Frics say they are facing mounting legal bills not just for this court case over the couple's assets, but in family court over their custody of the children and for legal representation in the criminal case against Dr. Shamji.
"The magnitude of the loss of the deceased to our family, and the resulting turmoil, is indescribable," the victim's mother says in an affidavit submitted to the court. "It is critical that all civil proceedings be dealt with as quickly as possible so the very difficult recovery process can begin, and some level of certainty for the future of the family be determined."
The Frics are also demanding a sweeping freeze order of all of Dr. Shamji's assets, including those held in trust by lawyers or anyone else. They want an "immediate accounting" of $640,000 paid from Dr. Shamji's business corporation account to his criminal lawyers between Dec. 19, 2016, and Jan. 6, 2017 – funds they say represent most of the couple's liquid assets.
They allege the money was transferred just days after lawyers for the Frics asked Dr. Shamji's lawyers on Dec. 11 to freeze his assets pending a formal court order, which was later obtained Jan. 18.
Alan Gold, a lawyer acting for Dr. Shamji's criminal lawyers, Liam O'Connor and Lisa Pomerant, initially said in an e-mail that no request was made regarding an asset-freeze order on Dec. 11. He later stated in a subsequent e-mail only that there was no discussion of a freeze on the trust accounts of Dr. Shamji's lawyers. He also said that the judge's Jan. 18 order does not call for a freeze on the trust accounts.
Mr. Gold said that "full financial disclosure" of all funds received by Ms. Pomerant had been made, and that the Frics' lawyer, Jeanie DeMarco of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, had already been paid $25,000 for legal costs from the funds in the trust account.
"It has always been Dr. Shamji's position that he is supporting, and that he will continue to support his children, subject only to his need to have funds for his criminal legal fees," Mr. Gold said.
In her affidavit, Ms. Fric said she and her husband had received $15,000 to cover the costs of her daughter's funeral and $52,000 for child support and mortgage payments on the family home that run more than $6,000 a month. But she alleges Dr. Shamji failed to provide an agreed $30,000 in mortgage payments, and wants $28,000 in remaining funds in Dr. Shamji's account surrendered to her daughter's estate.
The Frics say they have also been left making monthly payments on Dr. Shamji's blue Ford F-150 pickup truck, which he purchased in July, 2016, for more than $70,000. A $65,000 loan for the truck was registered against the North York property, requiring $600 in monthly payments.
The Frics want the truck sold before it depreciates any further, with the proceeds held in trust by Dr. Shamji's lawyers and available to support his children. The truck was seized by police and "retained for some time," the document says, and then returned. But Dr. Shamji, Ms. Fric alleges, will not reveal where it is.
According to Ms. Fric's affidavit, it remains unclear whether a life-insurance policy on Dr. Fric-Shamji, which names her husband as a beneficiary, will be paid out, as the unnamed insurer has not responded to requests for information.
Getting financial information out of Dr. Shamji has been "extremely slow and incomplete," the victim's mother alleges, because visits with his lawyers are short or cancelled at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., where he is being held, is subject to "frequent 'lockdowns.'"
Lawyers for the Frics are asking a judge to order Dr. Shamji both to provide detailed financial statements within 15 days and to subject himself to two hours of oral questioning by the Frics' lawyers at Maplehurst in May, with the Frics themselves attending if they choose.