01/28/2012 05:00 EST | Updated 03/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Shafia Honour Killing Trial: Read The Facts As The Jury Deliberates


KINGSTON, Ont. - A jury in eastern Ontario starts its first full day of deliberations Saturday to decide the fate of three people accused of killing four family members over honour.

Plans to kill Shafia sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, their father's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage, had been set in motion weeks earlier, the Crown alleges.

But the girls' father, Mohammad Shafia, 58, their mother Tooba Yahya, 42, and their brother Hamed, 18 at the time but now 21, have pleaded not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder.

During the 10-week trial, jurors heard vastly differing accounts of what happened.

Here's a look at the agreed upon facts, along with the Crown's version of events and the defence scenario.

The facts:

On June 29, 2009, the Shafias, an Afghanistan-born, Montreal-based family of 10 including two wives, wrapped up their summer vacation in Niagara Falls, where they had travelled the year before. After a trip mostly spent in Niagara — Hamed and Shafia left for one day and came back — the family packed it in that day.

They checked out of one of their hotel rooms in the morning, but didn't check out of the second one until about 6 p.m. They didn't head for home right away, instead leaving Niagara Falls at about 8:20 p.m.

In the family's Lexus SUV were Shafia, Hamed and the surviving Shafia children. In a 2004 black Nissan Sentra, purchased for $5,000 one day before they left on the trip, were Yahya and the four family members who would soon be dead. The Shafias' Pontiac minivan was left at home.

They drove toward Toronto, taking a little detour through the downtown and the girls took pictures of the CN Tower on their cellphones. As they travelled east from the city, they stopped at two different McDonalds, one being closed.

Yahya, Shafia and Hamed spelled each other off with driving, switching positions between the cars at a few points along the trip. But Yahya mostly drove the Nissan and Hamed mostly drove the Lexus.

At 1:36 a.m. Sahar's phone receives a text message that goes unanswered and cellphone signal mapping technology shows it is routed through the tower closest to the canal at Kingston Mills locks. The map shows that while the signal pings off this tower, the sector that the phone was in is not that of the locks, but that of the Kingston East Motel.

The Shafias first try to check in to the Lord Nelson motel, but it has no vacancy. They next try their luck at the Kingston East Motel, just down the road.

At roughly 1:53 a.m., at least some of the Shafia family arrives at that motel. Hamed and Shafia wake up motel manager Robert Miller through the call box and he checks them in around 2 a.m. They ask for two rooms, and when he asks how many people will be in each room, the question seems to cause some confusion, he says. The father and son speak to each another in a language Miller can't understand, and settle on six people total, three in each room.

About 15 minutes later, Miller sees Hamed and Shafia leaving the parking lot in an SUV. He stays awake until about 2:30 or 2:40 a.m. and doesn't see them or anyone else return.

People near the locks either in boats along the canal or in some of the few houses in the area hear the sound of a horn. Someone hears a splash. Someone sees two cars, one with no headlights on.

It's known that at some point Hamed went alone to Montreal in the Lexus. He says it was to conduct business and retrieve his laptop.

At 6:48 a.m., he receives a call from Shafia at the motel and cellphone mapping shows he is indeed in Montreal by that time.

Shafia makes a call from the motel to Sahar's cellphone at 7:01 a.m. and it goes straight to voicemail. He does not try to reach her again.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Hamed calls 911 in Montreal to report that he has had a collision with a barrier in a near-empty parking lot. An officer arrives to take the report and Hamed asks her if he can have his vehicle fixed immediately.

Hamed returns back to the motel at roughly 11:30 a.m. or 11:45 a.m., not in the Lexus, but in the family's minivan. He and his parents drop the other children off at Tim Hortons and go to the police station at 12:30 p.m. to report their four family members missing.

Meanwhile, around 9 a.m., lockmaster John Bruce discovers a car in the locks at Kingston Mills. He calls police and divers survey the underwater scene, finding that there are four female bodies in the car. The bodies are floating eerily over the seats, with Geeti and Zainab in the front and Rona and Sahar in the back.

They were not wearing seatbelts. Sahar was also not wearing shoes and Zainab had a sweater on backwards.

The Nissan Sentra is found with its wheels jerked to one side; the ignition, lights and wipers are off and it is in first gear. The seats are reclined all the way back, the driver's window is open and there are scrape marks on the undercarriage.

Police officers find pieces of plastic on the ground by the edge of the canal wall and on the grass nearby. The pieces of what would later be found to be bits of the Shafias' Lexus SUV headlights soon spark an investigation into the three now-accused family members.

What the defence says:

The end of the Shafias' trip to Niagara Falls was not a well-organized affair. The day they were attempting to check out and leave, various children were sleeping, eating or exploring, and the family could not get around to leaving until after 8 p.m.

Yahya starts getting sleepy and isn't feeling well, so they decide to stop for the night. At some point between making this decision on the highway and checking in to their motel in Kingston, the family stops somewhere again to switch drivers. Neither Yahya, Shafia nor the surviving son who all testified can nail down that location.

It was somewhere dark at the side of a road, they say.

They try the Lord Nelson motel and it is full, so Yahya tells Hamed and Shafia to go on and look for another motel and she will wait in the Nissan with the girls and Rona a little way down the road from the Lord Nelson. The passengers are sleeping, so Yahya reclines her seat and rests her eyes.

Hamed and Shafia get the rooms at the Kingston East Motel, drive a short distance down the road to where they left everyone else in the Nissan, no more than one kilometre away, and the whole family heads back to the motel. The girls and Rona are in one room, Shafia, Yahya and the other children are in the other room.

Zainab knocks on the door of her parents' room and asks to borrow the car keys so she can get some luggage out of the car. Shafia and Yahya say this is the last they see of her or the others. But Hamed tells a different story.

He says he saw them leave the parking lot in the Nissan, so he followed them, concerned for their safety because Zainab was an unlicensed and inexperienced driver. He suggests they were looking for a gas station to buy phone cards. They end up at Kingston Mills, where Hamed accidentally rear-ends the Nissan with the Lexus.

He gets out to pick up broken pieces of headlight and, as he is doing so, hears a splash. The Nissan has gone in the water.

Hamed rushes to the edge of the canal, dropping the pieces, and calls out their names. He runs to the Lexus to get a rope and honks the horn once for help. He dangles the rope in the water, but there are no signs of life. He waits for several minutes in shock, wondering what to do.

He was scared and thought he would get in trouble for not stopping Zainab from driving, so he decides not to call police and not to tell his parents.

He drives to Montreal to stage the collision in the parking lot to account for the damage. He doesn't initially tell police about this in an interview with them after making the missing persons report, but admits it when he is confronted with evidence later that day.

Meanwhile, Shafia wakes up early and discovers the Nissan and everyone from the other room is gone. He buys a phone card from the motel clerk and calls Hamed to ask if he has seen them.

Shafia makes a call from the motel to Sahar's cellphone at 7:01 a.m. and it goes straight to voicemail. He does not try to reach her again.

Back in Montreal already, Hamed stages a collision with the parking barrier to mask the damage sustained when he rear-ended the Nissan earlier, because he is afraid his father will find out and blame him for the girls' deaths. He doesn't tell his parents about the damage.

His father calls him again to say he still hasn't heard back from Sahar or anyone else, so Hamed drives back to Kingston. He returns in the minivan so his parents won't see the damaged Lexus. Shafia and Yahya wait for Hamed to get back to report the disappearances to the police because their English is not strong, and they don't want to wake up their other English-speaking children for fear of worrying them.

Hamed returns back to the motel and he and his parents drop the other children off at Tim Hortons and go to the police station at 12:30 p.m. to report their four family members missing. Hamed doesn't say a word. His lawyer says he is only guilty of being stupid.

What the Crown says:

The entire trip to Niagara Falls was part of the plan, and hardly a vacation at all.

By the time the trip was coming to an end, the accused were stalling on leaving Niagara to ensure they would pass through Kingston in the middle of the night. The detour through downtown Toronto was a stalling tactic.

The plan all along was to stop in Kingston, the Crown says, it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision. Why else would they have passed five exits leading to the main part of Kingston? In particular, why not get off at the exit where hotels are visible from the highway, including a hotel where they had stayed the year before?

Instead they exit at Highway 15, likely around 1:36 a.m., which would put them on the highway at the time of the last text message to Sahar's phone, and not at the motel yet.

If they were already at the motel at 1:36, 17 minutes are missing, having arrived there on the evidence at 1:53 a.m. at the earliest.

The two cars drive to Kingston Mills, where Hamed and Shafia leave Yahya in the Nissan with the four soon-to-be victims. She reclines her seat to rest, as her daughters and Rona are doing, while Shafia and Hamed check their other children into the motel. Zainab has probably put her sweater backwards over her while she sleeps, the Crown suggests.

Kingston Mills is about 4 1/2 minutes away from the motel and when Hamed and Shafia return, Rona and the girls are drowned in one of the several areas of open water, either to the point of unconsciousness or death.

Their bodies are placed back in the car, but the accused forget to pull the seats back to an upright position and they forget to buckle in the dead, or at least incapacitated, bodies with seatbelts. The headlights are off so as not to draw attention.

The Nissan is put into neutral and maneouvered into place by the edge of the canal wall. The steering wheel is cranked to one side so that when the car goes into the water it will drop perfectly in between a gate arm and a walkway, a tiny triangle-shaped slot with little clearance on either side.

When it's in position, someone reaches through the open driver's side window and puts the car into first gear, thinking it will cause the car to go into the canal under its own power. But the front-wheel drive vehicle gets hung up on the ledge, scraping the undercarriage.

With wheels spinning, making noise, and four bodies in a car perched on a concrete ledge, someone reaches through the window and turns the ignition off. Someone else gets the Lexus and drives it up to the canal wall and bumps it from behind. The impact causes the Nissan to plunge into the water, but also causes damage to both the back of the Nissan and the front of the Lexus.

Hamed drops his mother and father off at the motel then goes to Montreal to stage his accident in the parking lot.

When he returns the family drops the other children at the Tim Hortons while they go to report their family members missing. They have already come up with a story about Zainab taking the car keys, and the fewer people there are for police to interview, the lesser the chance that someone will stray from the script.

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