A mother, father and their son received life sentences for killing four members of their own family, an Ontario jury decided today.
Jurors found Mohammad Shafia, wife Tooba Yahya and son Hamed guilty of first-degree murder in a Kingston, Ont., courtroom after a 10-week trial in what some call Canada’s landmark “honor killing” trial.
“The apparent reason behind these cold, shameful murders was that four (victims) offended your twisted notion of honor,” Justice Robert Maranger told the convicted, according to CBC.
The victims were three teenage girls and Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad. Police found their bodies inside the family’s submerged Nissan Sentra at the bottom of a Kingston lock in June 2009.
Defense lawyers argued the girls – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – got behind the wheel with Mohammad and went for a joyride, somehow crashing into the water and drowning.
Prosecutors painted Shafia, 58, as a domineering Afghan father in a strict Muslim household who became incensed when his girls began dressing provocatively, dating and refusing to wear headscarves.
“This is a good day for Canadian justice,” Crown prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis told CBC. “(They were) murdered by their family in the most troubling of circumstances.
“This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and core principals in a free, democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy.”
Court heard Shafia calling his daughters “whores,” “filthy,” and “rotten children” on wiretap evidence, the National Post said.
The prosecution also said Mohammad – who was unable to have children – wanted out of the polygamous marriage.
Among the 58 witnesses were teachers and social workers who said the girls feared their father and brother and wanted to run away, CTV News said. Zainab fled to a women’s shelter just two months before her death, the National Post said.
The defense testimony contained numerous inconsistencies. Hamed said he followed the Nissan in his father’s Lexus SUV, eventually running into it from behind.
When he stepped out to inspect the damage, he heard the Nissan crash into the water.
Hamed said he dangled rope into the water and called out to the girls, but didn’t hear anything, panicked and fled.
Police divers who recovered the bodies said nobody was wearing seatbelts and the seats themselves were at odd angles, indicating someone placed them quickly inside the car. There was also evidence of bruising on three of the victim’s heads.
Prosecutors said Shafia purchased the used Nissan days before the killing, suggesting he needed a cheap vehicle to stage the crime.
Examiners said the women all died of drowning, but couldn’t say if they drowned in the lock, or beforehand.
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