At the Shafia “honour killing” trial, the verdict is in: guilty

Judge decries “cold-blooded, shameful murders”


The night before he was arrested for drowning his beautiful Afghan daughters, Mohammad Shafia told his wife and son: “I am happy and my conscience is clear. They haven’t done good and God punished them.” Today, in a courtroom packed to capacity, all three “honour killers” received their punishment: life behind bars.

The guilty verdicts—to four counts each of first-degree murder—were the climax of a sensational trial that captivated the country like few crimes have. In the end, after months of testimony and 15 hours of deliberations, a jury agreed with the prosecution’s theory: that three immigrant sisters were executed by their own father, their own mother, and their own brother because they didn’t behave like good Muslim girls should. Their “treacherous” conduct—boyfriends, tight clothes, independent thoughts—had so shamed the family name that death became the only way to restore their tarnished honour.

What happened to Zainab, Sahar and Geeti was not a foolish wrong turn by an inexperienced driver. It was mass murder, planned and pre-meditated by the people who should have loved them most.

The fourth victim, Rona Amir Mohammad, was Shafia’s first and infertile wife in a secretly polygamous clan. Her murder had nothing to do with honour. She was killed because she was no longer needed, a convenient throw-in with the rest of the “filth,” as Shafia called them.

Word of a verdict trickled out of the jury room on Sunday afternoon, just after 1 o’clock. By 1:40 p.m., the accused trio—Shafia, 59; Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42; and Hamed Shafia, 21—were being escorted into the Kingston, Ont., courtroom, their wrists and ankles cuffed, as always. At 2 p.m., the gallery silent, the jury foreman read out their decision.

Mohammad Shafia: guilty.

Tooba Yahya: guilty.

Hamed Shafia: guilty.

As soon as the first verdict was announced, Hamed leaned over and buried his face in his hands. His mother, standing to his left, rubbed his back. Shafia showed no emotion, like a man who knew what was coming.

Justice Robert Maranger, the presiding judge, asked if the killers had anything to say. “Bali,” Shafia said, the Dari word for yes. “We’re not criminals. We are not murderers. And this is unjust.”

“Your honour, this is not just,” his wife said next. “I’m not a murderer. I am a mother.”

Hamed—who didn’t testify in his own defence, and sat stone-faced during the entire trial—uttered his one sentence in English: “Sir, I did not drown my sisters anywhere.”

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Taking into account time already served, Shafia will be in his early 80s by the time he’s eligible to be released. His wife will be 64. His son will be 43.

“It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honourless crime,” Justice Maranger told them. “In the case of Mohammad Shafia, three of his daughters and his wife. In the case of Tooba Yahya, three of her daughters and a stepmother to all her children. In the case of Hamed Shafia, three of his sisters and a mother. The apparent reasons behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted notion of honour—a notion of honour that is founded on the domination and control of women, a notion of honour that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

As jurors left their seats for the last time, some were on the verge of tears.

Outside the courthouse, dozens of reporters and curious citizens crowded around an iron fence, watching as the convicted were led to a waiting police van. “Wrong,” Shafia said, looking at the cameras. “Wrong.” His wife and son, flanked by police, were silent.

Gerard Laarhuis, one of two Crown attorneys who worked the case, read a brief statement to reporters. “This is a good day for Canadian justice,” he said, standing beside his co-prosecutor, Laurie Lacelle. “Our democratic society protects the rights of all. It’s a very sad day because this jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances.”

As he spoke, a man in the crowd screamed in protest. “This is a lie,” he yelled. “This is injustice.” The man, whisked away by police, was Moosa Hadi, a self-proclaimed private investigator who worked for the Shafia family, and who testified at trial about how prosecutors had it all wrong.

Laarhuis ignored the interruption. “We all think of these four wonderful women now, who died needless deaths,” he continued. “This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles of a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy, and even visitors to Canada enjoy.”

A multi-millionaire businessman originally from Afghanistan, Shafia ran a successful import/export company in Dubai before moving his clan—himself, two wives, and seven children—to Montreal in 2007. Two summers later, on the morning of June 30, 2009, Rona and three of his daughters (Zainab, 19; Sahar, 17; and Geeti, 13) were found at the bottom of Kingston Mills, a historic lock station on the Rideau Canal. They were floating inside a sunken Nissan Sentra, no seatbelts on, the driver’s side window wide open.

The bodies were still in the water when Shafia, Yahya and Hamed showed up at city police headquarters that afternoon to file a missing persons report. By sunset, detectives were already suspicious of their story.

They told police that their family of ten was driving home to Montreal from a Niagara Falls vacation when they veered off Highway 401 and stopped at a Kingston motel for the night. Zainab, they said, grabbed the Nissan keys to get some clothes from the trunk, and when they all woke up the next morning, the car—and the women—were gone. “I don’t know anything else,” Shafia said.

But as police learned, Hamed, 18 at the time, didn’t stay at the motel with the others. He kept going to Montreal, behind the wheel of his father’s silver Lexus SUV. And once there, he dialed 911 to report a strange, single-car fender-bender in an empty parking lot. After speaking to the officer (and asking how quickly the damage could be repaired), he climbed inside the family’s third car, a green minivan, and drove 300 km back to Kingston. When asked why he was in such a rush to get back to Montreal, Hamed said he needed to pick up his laptop.

“I think you know more than what you’ve told me here today,” said Detective-Constable Geoff Dempster.

“I have no idea,” Hamed answered.

He did. Officers combing the scene found tiny shards of plastic that were later matched to the Lexus headlight—proving that the SUV, and not just the Nissan, were at the locks that night. Even more damning, dents and scratches on the front left side of the Lexus matched similar marks on the Nissan’s back bumper, suggesting that one car pushed the other over the concrete lip of the canal.

Over the next two weeks, detectives discovered the disturbing truth about life inside the Shafia household, where women were property, men were the law, and reputation mattered more than anything else. Shafia had brought his children to the freest of countries, but expected them to adhere to his old-world honour code. In his mind, a daughter just talking to a strange boy was a sin worthy of death.

And as police discovered, the Shafia sisters had definitely “sinned.” Zainab ran away from home and married a Pakistani. Sahar had a secret boyfriend of her own—and had twice reported her parents to Quebec’s child-welfare agency. Geeti, despite her young age, was the most rebellious of all, telling anyone who listened that she wanted to be placed in foster care. She had no intention of following her father’s “traditions.”

On July 18, less than three weeks after the car was found, police invited father, mother and son back to Kingston to update them on the case—and secretly plant a wiretap in their minivan. They also took the trio on a tour of the locks, telling them (falsely) that a camera had been found nearby and detectives were sifting through the coverage. Back in the van, police were listening.

“There was no camera over there,” Yahya said. “I looked around, there wasn’t any. If, God forbid, God forbid, there was one in that little house, all three of us have come, no?”

Shafia agreed: “They’re lying.”

Over the next three days, the wiretaps captured Shafia railing against his dead daughters, describing them as “whores” who were “filthy” and “treacherous.”

“If we remain alive one night or one year, we have no tension in our hearts, [thinking that] our daughter is in the arms of this or that boy, in the arms of this or that man,” he said. “God curse their graduation! Curse of God on both of them, on their kind. God’s curse on them for a generation! May the devil shit on their graves! Is that what a daughter should be? Would [she] be such a whore?”

In one recording, Yahya told her husband that she knew Zainab “was already done,” but wished the “two others weren’t.”

“No, Tooba, they messed up. There was no other way, ” he replied. “They committed treason from beginning to end. They betrayed kindness, they betrayed Islam, they betrayed our religion and creed, they betrayed our tradition, they betrayed everything.”

They were arrested 36 hours later. Interrogated by police, Shafia and Hamed conceded nothing. Yahya, however, did cave, admitting that all three were at the locks when the women died—but that she fainted after hearing the splash and didn’t remember anything else.

Four months after that, Hamed gave a jailhouse statement to his father’s private investigator (the same man who heckled the prosecutors this afternoon). He admitted, for the first time, that he was at the locks when the Nissan went in—but just him, not his parents. According to his new story, he saw the women in the hotel parking lot, itching to drive to a gas station so Rona could buy a phone card. Because none of them had a license, Hamed said he agreed to follow them to make sure they returned safely.

The pumps, though, were closed, and while looking for a suitable place to turn around, both cars ended up near the locks. It was there, Hamed said, that he accidentally rear-ended the Sentra. “I hit the back but not hard, just the glass was broken, the glass of Lexus car,” he said.

Moments later, while picking up the shards, he heard a splash and sprinted over. “At that moment,” he told Hadi, “I think one of the lights was showing.” He grabbed a yellow rope from his trunk, dangled it over the water and beeped his horn several times. When none of his sisters swam to the surface, he did what any good brother would: he climbed back into the SUV and headed straight home to Montreal.

He never told his parents what happened, he said, and didn’t call police because he was afraid they would “blame me” for allowing Zainab to drive without a license. “I was scared,” Hamed said. “I decided with myself not to say that I was with them.”

At trial, that was the story the defence stuck to: Mom and Dad had no idea what happened, Hamed did, but kept it a secret.

In her closing submissions, Laurie Lacelle offered a much different explanation. “Shafia, Tooba and Hamed decided there was a diseased limb on their family tree,” she said. “And their solution was to remove the diseased limb in its entirety, and prune the tree back to the good wood.”

The jury agreed.

Click here for Maclean’s complete coverage of the trial.

Filed under:

At the Shafia “honour killing” trial, the verdict is in: guilty

  1. These parents destroyed their whole family.  What will come of the other Shafia children: doomed to live in Canadian foster homes?  Shafia dragged all of them into this for the sake of his so-called “honour,” and I wish there was a way to extradite them back to Afghanny, but instead, Canada will pay to keep them incarcerated for the next 25 years, and I guess we’ll look after the other children too. 

    I am so glad I wasn’t on that jury; how upsetting.

    • You realize that if they are deported, they return to a country in which what they have done is not often viewed as against the law and very often perpetrators seldom go to jail or are punished.  Do you really want to send them home?  Or do you want to see them get what they deserve, forfeiture of their freedom for the remainder of their lives for killing their sweet children and an innocent woman whose only “sin” was infertility?

      This is also a crime against women.  They’re where they belong, I think.

  2. How is it possible that sincere practitioners of a peaceful religion such as Islam can perform such horribly violent crimes against their own flesh and blood in the name of that same religion?
    Something does not add up. 

    • check your premise

      • I think Martin was alluding to the fact that it might not be such a peaceful religion. . .

  3. Enjoyed the Judge’s choice of word to the Shafia’s.  The only thing troubling here is that we will have to fit the bill for the Shafia’s in jail which we really don’t need. They should be extradited back to Afghanistan jails and then we have to look after their remaining children… not fair to us Canadians! We have enough on our own plates!

    • Back in Afghanistan they would walk in one day, it’s their law and that will never change.As soon as the UN departs it will be overun by the Taliban who will never change.

    • You realize that if they are deported, they return to a country in which what they have done is not often viewed as against the law and very often perpetrators seldom go to jail or are punished.  Do you really want to send them home?  Or do you want to see them get what they deserve, forfeiture of their freedom for the remainder of their lives for killing their sweet children and an innocent woman whose only “sin” was infertility?This is also a crime against women.  They’re where they belong, I think.


  4. Glad to see justice done for a terrible crime, upset at the prejudicial conclusions drawn by many.

  5. It was a dishonorable crime done in the name of religious honor,these are the people that give Islam a bad name and it’s teachings an erroneous reputation

    • Nonsense!  These people display Islam.

      • Agreed.

        • Absolutely right, Islam is the reason behind their actions. Look at how women are treated in an Islamic Republic like Iran or Saudi Arabia, they are treated like garbage. It is time to realize that Sharia law teaches honour killings, just read the damn Koran and you will see. There is nothing peaceful about Islam, nor its desert-era counterparts (Christianity and Judaism – although they are much more benign religions, although deserving of no less scrutiny). The guilty verdict sets an amazing precedent in this country – killings based on religion equal life behind bars. 

          • What they did has nothing to do with islam. They used islam to reason why they did it which is absolutely wrong. And islam is a peaceful religion.

          • Afrah is a diseased pig. the qu’ran clearly condones honous killings, amongst other atrocities.
            Quran- 4:15 “If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence of
            four (reliable) witness from amongst you against them; if they testify, confine
            them to houses until death do claim them. Or God ordain for them some (other)
            Sahi Muslim No. 4206:
            “A woman came to the prophet and asked for
            purification by seeking punishment. He told her to go away and seek God’s
            forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted she was pregnant. He told her
            to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should
            wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take
            solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community. And when he had
            given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered
            the people to stone her. Khalid b. al-Walid came forward with a stone which he
            threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on her face he cursed her.”

          • truecanadian, are you sure you want to start quoting scripture? I hear that the Old Testament has some pretty crazy stuff in it too….

          • Steve: cultural relativism will kill you.

          • islam is a disrespectful relegion to women, its barbaric 

          • Islam is not a peaceful religion. Read the koran, read what Mohammad has done and said.

          • I believe you have not read about any of these religions thoroughly, otherwise you would not be making such a loose statement.

          • To Afrah and Fka…are you both braindead? You obviously have never read any arguments against your position ever. The family was an admitted religious family. They carried out Islam as it is meant to be: a primitive, 7th century, barbaric, desert tribe religion. I think that the world be a much better place without any religion whatsoever, but that aside, honour killings have no place in Canadian secular society. People are free to believe what they want, but don’t try to suggest that fundamentalist messianic religion didn’t have anything to do with the murders. You are insulting those dead women and others that face the wrath and ire of religion.

  6. I hope they suffer and then die in prison.

    • Only after they have served their time in isolation without visits from any cultist muslims. But  they will have many visitors and likely a trust fund will be set up to help them out in a few years when the pressure will start to gather for a  quick release program. The private Shia dick is exactly the the same as his client. They will be voted out of jail by the muslim community, on Humanitarian Grounds.
      Mark my words. It’s very disturbing.

  7. I don’t think they serve halal in prison..hahahahahahahahaha

    • No doubt our idiot system will provide for them

  8. Now….if we could only clean up our own acts of domestic violence, and domestic homicide.

    Different name….same old controlling routine.  Same results.

    There are no high horses for us to perch on here, I’m afraid.

    • Well said !none of us are saints we all have our shortcomings ,hightime we looked into them and the turmoils of this world amd find a solution to all these man made miseries instead of blaming it on religion alone.

    • True but at least it is not systemic in our faith/society

      • That’s not what the police reports show.

        • Police reports show that domestic abuse it ‘systemic in our faith’? Please.

          • It is systemic in our society….which is supposedly majority christian.

            Read the bible sometime….it allows for slavery, genocide, stoning…..and the rape and murder of women

          • Many say that they are a certain religion, yet practice/follow none of it.

            I am curious to see the police reports that show that domestic abuse is directly related to the ‘religion of our society’.

            I would submit that alcohol, joblessness, ignorance, the cycle of abuse, and many more issues factor in. Religion, not so much. . .

            I have read the Bible. Can’t say I know of a pastor or Priest who condones any of the above mentioned items. . .

          • Fish don’t know they live in water

            We live in religion the same way.

            If you don’t know anyone who condones the biblical practices….you aren’t aware of the world you live in either.

          • Well please, oh wise one, who is oh so aware of the world she lives in:

            How many people who, in the name of the Bible, support and promote slavery, genocide, stoning…..and the rape and murder of women, do you personally know. Give me a number, not your usual ‘dodge’ of an answer. 

          • Again – a dodge of an answer.

            How many people do you PERSONALLY know who support and promote slavery, genocide, stoning…..and the rape and murder of women, in the name of the Bible? Give me a number.

            Also, I can be quite sure that the folks you mentioned do not support a single one of these things.

            You throw out comments with a huge bias, yet don’t stop to actually think how silly they are. You try to defend them by dodging a real answer. I will help you out.

            You don’t personally know one single person who supports that crap you printed. Not one. Yet you come on here and try to let other uneducated people think that folks who follow the Bible promote that.

            You have a bias, you are wrong, yet even when it stares you in the face, you cannot see it.

            Islam does have a huge number of people who follow the violent parts of it’s religion. It has respected teachers who promote it.

            Christianity does not. Period. All you talk is like a fart in the wind.

          • I don’t dodge answers, you just don’t like them.

            They point out that fundies are crazy….no matter what religion they are.

          • You are kidding, right?

            You made baseless statements. I asked for specific proof. You provided none.

            You dodge answering, because your BS is not able to handle a tiny bit of scrutiny.

          • I provide answers. You don’t like them, so you rant about them.

            You’re done.  Bye.

          • You provided answers to questions that I did not ask. You did not even try to answer the specific question I did ask. It required an actual number for an answer. Not a link. Not a guess. Not more useless information. I asked for a number – you did not provide it.

            Your lack of an answer proves you are full of it, as usual. I just find it sad that someone might stumble upon this site and take what you post as having some inkling of sense.

  9. Another good example of how in Canada criminals get the bulk discount for crimes, this and the outrage put on by defence lawyers makes me sick.

  10. First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. ”

    Sort of.  If a murder was committed prior to Dec 2 2011 murderers are still eligible for the “faint hope clause” which allows early parole after 15 years.  In this case, the Shafia clan are ineligible as the clause does not allow those convicted of multiple murders early parole.

  11. I dearly hope police are keeping a close eye on that private investigator.  Because the dad chose as his story to blame everything on the son–this guy is something–but the private investigator aided and abetted him.  And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one thought of this plan and which one was the “dutiful” (otherwise known as completely and utterly brainwashed) son.

  12. Dear Respected Lady – well done!

  13. I think it should be illegal to introduce a child to a religion that teaches hate and death to the infidel, the muslim boys rule over their sisters and they like the power, and so it goes on. They don’t have respect>
    for nonbelievers and so the encroachment continues. It’s a cryin shame, and I mean that! 

  14. Not all Muslims are honour-killers; but it is an undeniable  fact that all honour-killers are Muslims

    • No, Jassi, the young Canadian woman of East Indian descent who was ordered killed by her mother and uncle, was of Sikh religion.  Not only Muslims kill this way.  In fact, I’m pretty sure you can find lots of twists on honour killing right here in Canada — ie fathers who kill their children to get back at wives who leave them…I don’t think it’s religion: I think it’s culture.

      • Is Sikh not an offshoot of Islam?

        Fathers who kill to ‘get back’ at wives don’t do it and call it an honor killing. . .

  15. What really gets me is that inspite of the mountain of unequivocal evidence against them they have the bald faced effrontery to say that they aren’t murderers, didn’t do it: “I’m not a murderer, I’m a mother”..etc.  Animals!!

    I hope they serve very ‘hard’ time. Its a shame that they can’t be thrown into an Afghan hell hole of a prison though.

  16. This comment was deleted.

    • Yes sir, and that is why every major news and journalism outlet in this country – both left and right – were covering this story for months. Grow up, do some research, and check your attitude. 2015 will be a great year when we see delusional Conservatives booted from office.

  17. The Shafia family is apparently wealthy and could easily afford the airfare to return to their homeland. If Mr.and Mrs. Shafia and son felt that the murder victims had brought dishonor to the family, why did they not return them to Afghanistan or some other country like Saudi Arabia where Sharia law is observed? Then the victims would have been found guilty legally, after being put on trial, and then been sentenced and put to death by beheading or stoning by the Government with the full blessing of prevailing Law. Were they too cheap to go to the expense of having their daughters and wife put to death legally?

    • Martin:         The father bought a cheap car the day before so he wouldn’t have to use his expensive SUV to commit murder.  He negotiated at lenght with the motel/hotel owner for a cheaper rate for the motel rooms the night of the murders.  He telephones his business adviser in Montreal and never once asks about his remaining children –      he only inquires about the status of his money.  And you wonder if he’s cheap.

      Also – why on earth would you wish for such a thing as a form of extradition so they could send these precious children and expendable wife home to be murdered?  

      You said:

      How is it possible that sincere practitioners of a peaceful religion such as Islam can perform such horribly violent crimes against their own flesh and blood in the name of that same religion?  Something does not add up. 

      but I guess you didn’t actually mean it!

  18. R.I.P. Multiculturalism.

  19. BTW, how much is it gonna cost to keep these people
    incarcerated for a total of 75 years

    (minimum)? We’re constantly being told that
    immigration is bringing us these 3rd world dynamos who will contribute so much
    in taxes that our social programs like the CPP will be saved.
    Well, the money we’ve already spent as a result of this crime in terms of

    and now incarceration will be yet another strain on our
    finances. How much are we spending on

    trials for people like this or the ” Toronto 18″ or the
    Khadr family? How much are we spending

    to protect ourselves from terrorists who would not be
    here if it weren’t for mass immigration?

    It seems that in the Canadian discourse, we’re allowed to
    discuss the (alleged) benefits of 8immigration but not the costs.

    • To FPSC:  You’re discussing the costs, now. Grow up and write something constructive, instead of bringing discredit to our great democratic society.

  20. On the photos in your magazine of the Shafia gravestones of the girls, in an article I just read while at the optometrist, I noticed that Sahar’s birthdate was used for both Sahar’s gravestone and also for her younger sister’s gravestone as well., But this is an error, as Geeta is, or rather was, 4 years younger! they weren’t twins. So why is this error on that poor child’s gravestone? It seems very disrespectful to leave it there.

    The burial took place before the arrests. Why did nobody notice this error and correct it?

  21. the men will be really shamed when they go to prison and get raped, beaten and verbally assaulted. Prison-justice, they get the news in prison i’m sure everyone knows who they are and what they did. 

  22. Why oh whyb did we get rid of capital punishment?

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