KINGSTON, Ont. – A man accused of killing his three daughters and one of his two wives told a police interrogator that he dearly loved his dead children, but they were liars, court heard Wednesday.
Mohammad Shafia, 58, is on trial — along with his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and son Hamed, 20 — charged with four counts each of first-degree murder. They have each pleaded not guilty to killing three teenage Shafia sisters and Shafia’s other wife in a polygamous marriage.
The jury in Kingston, Ont., watched video Wednesday of the police interrogation of Shafia — conducted in Farsi and translated into English — the day after he, his wife and his son were arrested in July 2009.
He tells the interrogator his life has been ruined by the deaths of his children and Rona Amir Mohammad, whom he calls his cousin, and that his kids were “pure and sinless.”
“Swear to God I loved them with my heart,” Shafia says. “I wish God would have taken my life and spared their lives.”
But, he says, they were liars.
“They told a lot of lies…They had said something like that, ‘My dad is beating me,'” Shafia says. “If, for example they were going somewhere, they didn’t say the truth. They are lying.”
The only child who doesn’t lie is Hamed, Shafia says.
Hamed and his parents are accused of killing his three sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Shafia’s other wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, who were found dead inside a submerged car on June 30, 2009, in the Rideau Canal. The family was heading home to Montreal from a trip to Niagara Falls, Ont., when they stopped in Kingston for the night and staged the deaths to look like an accident, court has heard.
The Crown alleges they were killed over family honour, a point that the interrogator hammers home at the end of the heated interview with Shafia.
“You don’t have even a little honour…The honour of your family is in the hands of your women,” RCMP Insp. Shahin Mehdizadeh says before walking out of the room.
“No, this is not a right word to say,” Shafia pleads.
Court heard Tuesday that weeks before the deaths, Shafia called his brother-in-law to ask for help in killing Zainab. Shafia called his eldest daughter a prostitute for visiting a library, going on the Internet, spending time with friends and dating, Fazil Jawid testified. He could only be identified under a publication ban Tuesday as a relative, but can be named now that he is done testifying.
Zainab’s Pakistani boyfriend was a source of tension in the family, and though they eventually let her marry him, they had it annulled the same day, court has heard.
During the two-hour interrogation the day after the family was arrested, Shafia maintains his innocence and says he would have had no problem with his children marrying whoever they wanted, as long as they were happy. However, at one point Shafia suggests to Mehdizadeh that Zainab’s boyfriend wanted to kill her.
No matter what the girls might have done, Shafia says, they did not deserve to die like that.
“(Whoever is responsible) is the worst dishonour, the worst disrespectful, the worst ill-mannered person in the world,” Shafia says.
The interrogation is of a very different tone than Yahya’s, which was also conducted by Mehdizadeh. Yahya weeps over photos of her children, is quiet and reluctant to answer questions, though she eventually tells Mehdizadeh that the three were present when the car went in the water. She pins the blame on her husband, though court heard Wednesday that the morning after her interrogation she recanted all of what she had said.
Shafia is talkative and even defiant during his interrogation, interrupting Mehdizadeh, raising his voice and almost lecturing him, saying, “I have something to say to you. Pay attention to my words.”
Shafia is shown the same photos his wife was, of his daughters after their bodies had been pulled from the water, and Mehdizadeh asks Shafia why the photos don’t appear to bother him.
“I am upset,” he says. “Crying is not in my control.”