In the days after Mohammad Shafia’s three daughters died, he spoke privately to family about how they had dishonoured him by consorting with boys, jurors at his murder trial were told Thursday, October 20. “God’s curse on them … may the devil shit on their graves,” Shafia (inset) said, in a conversation with his second wife Tooba and son Hamed that was secretly recorded by police. “Is that what a daughter should be? Would [a daughter] be such a whore?”
Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle revealed the excerpt from a wiretap during an hour and a half opening address to the six-man, six-woman jury. The cavernous room of Kingston’s 153-year-old limestone courthouse was full with dozens of journalists and roughly 100 spectators, as Canada’s first ever mass honour killing case began to unspool in public for the first time.
Shafia, 58, and his second wife Tooba, 41, along with their son Hamed, 20, are accused of killing their daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife. The four members of the Afghan family were found dead in a car discovered submerged in a shallow canal on June 30, 2009. Jurors were told that they will hear evidence about the ancient cultural practice of honour killing, in which the chastity and obedience of female family members is paramount.
In some cases, families believe the only way to cleanse shame and restore honour is to kill offending women.
Lacelle told the jurors that police planted a listening device in a Shafia vehicle on July 18 and recorded several conversations in which Shafia complained to his wife and son that his daughters had turned bad. They wore revealing clothes and makeup. Zainab ran way from home in May of 2009 and demanded permission to marry her Pakistani boyfriend. The two other daughters wanted to leave home to get way from an oppressive and abusive environment.
“It was all treason, they committed treason from beginning to the end,” Lacelle said, quoting Shafia from another wiretap. “They betrayed humankind; they betrayed Islam; they betrayed our religion and creed; they betrayed our tradition; they betrayed everything.”
Lacelle revealed that police seized a laptop computer from the family’s home in St. Leonard. It was registered to Shafia but used by his son Hamed. Forensic experts found evidence of a Google search 10 days before the deaths.
“The words entered were: ‘Where to commit a murder,’ ” Lacelle said. A few weeks earlier there had been a search on the computer for, “Can a prisoner have control over their real estate,” the prosecutor said.
Lacelle said that autopsies on the victims showed that they drowned, though experts could not determine when they drowned. Toxicology tests did not find any evidence of any incapacitating substances in the bodies of the victims. Three of the victims had fresh bruises on the crowns of their heads. Lacelle offered no explanation for the injuries.
Only one witness appeared yesterday, Kingston police constable Julia Moore, an identification officer who collected evidence and took photos. Moore explained that the car in which the victims were found, a Nissan Sentra, was in first gear, with the driver’s side window down, the headlights switched off. The two front seats were reclined.
Lacelle said the jurors will hear evidence that Tooba and Hamed have both acknowledged in statements that they were at the locks when the Sentra went into the water. In public statements the family made in the days after the deaths, they said that their daughter Zainab had taken the car without permission on that night and they did not now how the four ended up dead in the canal.
The family had stopped in Kingston early on the morning of June 30 on the way home to Montreal from a family trip to Niagara Falls. They took two rooms at a motel near the locks.
Defence lawyers did not make any opening statements to the jury and they have not yet cross-examined Moore. She will be back on the stand today.
(This story appeared first in the Montreal Gazette)
The photos of the victims below were released yesterday by the court (click an image to enlarge or view as slideshow):