Honour-Killing Trial: Father, Mohammad Shafia, Cries At Sight Of Daughters' Autopsy Photos
KINGSTON, Ont. - A terrified woman begged for secrecy about her abusive living conditions out of fear her husband would kill her and his three teenaged daughters to preserve the Muslim family's honour, an Ontario court heard Monday.
The witness, who cannot be identified by court order, talked of how she tried to calm her older relative over the phone.
"She was shivering. She was afraid," she testified.
"I told her don't be afraid: This is not Afghanistan. This is Canada. I told her nothing would happen."
In fact, the Crown alleges, Mohammad Shafia along with his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their son did kill Rona Amir Mohammad and his three daughters by drowning them.
In various telephone calls, Mohammad talked about how Shafia — the patriarch of the family originally from Afghanistan — beat her in front of the children.
Yahya — Shafia's second wife — had forbidden the young ones to talk to Mohammad, court heard.
"I'm just fed up with my life. I ask God to finish my life. I want to be in an accident," the witness testified Mohammad had told her.
Mohammad called the relative one last time just before a family trip to Niagara Falls, Ont.
"I love Canada and I want to stay here," the woman testified Mohammad told her.
"Those were her last words (to me)."
Mohammad, along with sisters Geeti, 13, Sahar, 17, and Zainab, 19, were found in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ont., in June 2009 on the way back to the family home in Montreal.
The witness also testified that Mohammad told her Shafia had threatened to kill Zainab for dishonouring the family by seeking help from social services.
The Crown has given Mohammad's age as 50, but her passport indicates she was 52.
Yahya, 41, Shafia, 58, and Hamed, 20, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.
Earlier in the day, Shafia convulsed in quiet sobs as autopsy photographs of his dead daughters and wife were shown in court.
It was a rare sign of emotion from Shafia, who had earlier smiled and chatted amiably with his lawyer.
Yahya, the mother of the girls, was allowed to leave court before the testimony in which a forensic pathologist said the females drowned, and showed no signs they had taken or been administered drugs or alcohol.
"These are graphic photographs," Crown lawyer Gerard Laarhuis warned. "People need to be prepared to see them."
Shafia's son, Hamed, who is also accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of his sisters, rubbed his eyes as the slides showing the dead women were shown.
Some showed the dead teens, with their long dark hair, awaiting the autopsies that turned up naval piercings and loose change in their jeans' pockets.
During his testimony, Dr. Christopher Milroy said unusually extensive toxicology tests were done on the bodies but turned up nothing untoward.
Searches for substances such as cyanide, cocaine, antifreeze, carbon monoxide, various forms of alcohol and other toxins all came back negative, Milroy said.
"There was nothing really that we could have tested for that was not tested for," Milroy told the jury trial presided over by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger.
Three of the four victims did show mysterious minor or moderate bruising to the top or side of the heads but Milroy was unable to say what caused the bleeding or whether the victims would have been rendered unconscious.
He was adamant they would have woken up when they hit the water had they been simply sleeping.
"There was no evidence they had been subject to an attack or subject to a restraint," Milroy agreed under cross-examination.
He was unable to say whether they had drowned in the canal where they were found floating in the black Nissan Sentra, its ignition in the off position, but its gear shift in "low."
The Crown maintains the deceased were somehow incapacitated before they went into the canal.
The defence argues it would have been extremely difficult to have rendered them incapacitated or drowned them without leaving clear signs of trauma or other evidence.
The accused have cast the drownings as an accident.