Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Did daughter's romance spark killings?

Dad upset with Pakistani boyfriend: family

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Montreal -- Despite the outward appearance of being a quiet family, there were signs of conflict within Mohammad Shafia's Montreal-area home in the weeks leading up to the slayings of three of his daughters and his first wife.

The 56-year-old businessman is charged -- along with his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 39, and their 18-year-old son Hamed -- with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

The charges stem from the June 30 deaths of Shafia and Yahya's daughters -- Zainab, 19, Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13 -- and Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad. The bodies of all four were discovered in a car found submerged near the Kingston Mills Locks on the Rideau Canal, near Kingston, Ont.

Kingston police said Thursday they are pursuing allegations the slayings were carried out as honour killings, a homicide where the victim is killed by their own kin for a perceived violation of a religious code.

In an interview with the Kingston Whig Standard, Diba Masoomi -- a woman described as Mohammad's sister -- said Shafia "believed his daughter had dishonoured him and the family by having a romance with a young Pakistani man in Montreal."

Joyce Gilbert, a St. Leonard, Que., resident and neighbour of the Shafia family, said Zainab ran away from home for a couple of weeks a few months ago. At issue with her parents was her relationship with a young man they did not approve of, Gilbert said. "It was during the spring. I don't know where she went. Her parents could not accept it. But she eventually came home."

Masoomi is believed to be the author of an e-mail sent out to the media and the Kingston police a week after the vehicle was discovered.

The author of the e-mail obviously possessed intimate knowledge of the Shafia family, including the fact that Shafia first married Mohammad in either 1979 or 1980, and then married Yahya in the late 1980s. Both marriages took place in Afghanistan, where it is legal for a man to have more than one wife.

The author of the e-mail alleged Yahya "was the privileged one" because she could have children.

"The girls were not allowed to go out alone, for example, neither to the cinema nor to meet friends and they were not able to dress freely. (Shafia) often criticized the influence of the Western culture on his family since they were not living in an Islamic country anymore," the e-mail read.

On Friday, Quebec's Youth Protection Services confirmed reports that the organization was involved with the family in the months preceding the murders. The government organization is now taking care of the couple's three other children.

-- Canwest News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2009 A10

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