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Shafia Honour Killing Trial: Tooba Yahya Admits Lying To Police

01/12/2012 11:03 EST | Updated 01/13/2012 06:59 EST
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KINGSTON, Ont. - A woman accused of killing her three daughters and her husband's other wife agrees with the attorney prosecuting her on one thing: she lied.

Tooba Yahya, 42, told police in her post-arrest interview that she was at the scene the night the four people died. That and several other statements she made to RCMP Insp. Shahin Mehdizadeh, brought in to conduct the interview in Farsi, were made up, Yahya testified Thursday.

"What I told to Mr. Shahin, it was not the truth," Yahya said. "I was under pressure ... It was all lies."

Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis asked if testifying at her trial caused her to feel the same amount of pressure. It does, she said, but now she is not lying.

Yahya, her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son Hamed, 21, are alleged to have killed three teenage Shafia sisters and Shafia's first wife in a polygamous marriage in a so-called honour killing.

The bodies of Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found in the family's car submerged in a canal June 30, 2009, in Kingston, Ont., where the Montreal family stopped on their way home from Niagara Falls, Ont. The three have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.

Yahya has now spent four days on the stand, much of that time under cross-examination by Laarhuis as he repeatedly and methodically goes over her version of events minute by minute, detail by detail.

Laarhuis accused Yahya of not being truthful at different points in her interview with Mehdizadeh, suggesting she changed her stories about what happened as Mehdizadeh revealed more evidence to her — specifically evidence that implicated her son as the one who used the family's SUV to push the other car into the water.

She tried to pin the blame on her husband, Laarhuis said.

Yahya's "plan A," Laarhuis said, was to stick to the family story that Zainab borrowed the car keys in the middle of the night at their Kingston motel and must have taken the other three on a joy ride that ended tragically.

When confronted with inconsistencies in that story, she went to "plan B," Laarhuis suggested, which was admitting they were there, but that Shafia was responsible, not Hamed.

But when confronted with her own words, that Hamed was the one driving the SUV back from Niagara Falls that night, she brought out "plan C," Laarhuis said, which was that she was confused and couldn't remember any crucial details.

Yahya disagreed.

Laarhuis also spent much time trying to elicit details from Yahya about a crucial point during the night in question, trying to nail down the stops the family made between Niagara Falls and when they arrived at the motel in Kingston.

The family maintains they stopped at two different McDonald's restaurants, then stopped somewhere else. Yayha says she then made a fourth stop, just down the road from their motel, where she waited in the car with her daughters and co-wife as the men got two rooms. Neither Yahya, nor Shafia, nor a surviving sibling who testified for the defence, has been able to describe that third stop in much more detail than that it was very dark and by the side of a road.

The Crown alleges that stop was in fact Kingston Mills locks, where the bodies would be found hours later.

The family would have been familiar with the area, the Crown says, because they had been there three times before — to stop and use the washroom days earlier en route to Niagara Falls, and twice in 2008, on the way to and from a similar family trip to Niagara.

Yahya's explanation for being caught on an intercept on July 18, 2009, apparently worried about the possibility of a camera at the scene, was that it would show that they were there a few times before, she said.

Clearly, Laarhuis said, by July 18 Yahya had at least made the connection that the place her daughters and co-wife died was somewhere that they had been three times before, including just six days earlier. But she didn't tell police because it would look suspicious, Laarhuis suggested to her.

In her post-arrest interview on July 22, Mehdizadeh asks several times if Yahya had been to Kingston Mills before.

"No," she says. "Never."

The family did stop somewhere in the Kingston area to use the washroom on their way to Niagara Falls, she says in the interview, but she doesn't know where it was.

"It was very dark," she tells Mehdizadeh.

But the washroom stops were made during the daytime, Laarhuis said. "You were there a time when it was dark?"

No, Yahya answered, that was a lie.

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