"If I ever go missing, or if something ever happens to me, you will know who did it," Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji confided to a friend amid escalating physical and emotional abuse as she considered divorcing her husband, Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Mohammed Shamji.
Two days after Shamji, 43, was served with divorce papers in November 2016, he strangled his wife in the bedroom of their home and dumped her body in the Humber River, according to a brief summary of facts read in court.
On Monday, days before the start of his trial for first-degree murder, Shamji pleaded guilty to killing Fric-Shamji, a prominent and beloved family doctor at Scarborough General Hospital and the mother of their three children, now aged 14, 11 and 5.
Shamji entered his plea to second-degree murder in a downtown courtroom filled with his wife’s friends and family, all wearing purple ribbons signifying a stand against domestic violence.
At his appearance, Shamji’s two eldest children saw their father for the first time since his arrest — although the 11-year-old left the courtroom with her grandmother, Ana Fric, when the agreed statement of facts was read by the prosecutor.
"Justice will never be for us. Never," Fric said after the court hearing concluded. "The only justice we will have is if she can come back. And she will never come back."
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The Frics’ lawyer, Jean DeMarco, said the family was satisfied with the plea, in part because it meant that Fric-Shamji’s eldest daughter and mother would not have to testify during the five-week trial. DeMarco also noted that it is very difficult to prove the premeditation element of first-degree murder. While Shamji was committed to trial on first-degree murder after a preliminary hearing, the judge said there was "formidable" evidence to suggest that the killing was not planned or deliberate.
According to the summary of the facts, Fric-Shamji reported verbal, emotional and physical abuse during her 12-year marriage to Shamji. Testimony from the preliminary inquiry from family members, friends and neighbours of the couple describes years of abuse by Shamji, including a previous instance of choking her until she passed out and repeated sexual assaults.
In May 2005, the couple separated for eight months after an incident that resulted in Shamji being charged with assault and uttering death threats, according to testimony during the preliminary hearing. A friend of Fric-Shamji at the time observed her injuries and said she had been concerned about being able to safely end the relationship. Those charges were resolved through a peace bond and the couple reconciled.
In May 2016, Fric-Shamji confided in friends that she was concerned Shamji was cheating on her again with a woman he’d previously had an affair with, according to the preliminary hearing ruling. She told one friend, "if I apply for divorce he will try to destroy me."
She posted a message anonymously on a Facebook group for physician mothers asking for advice.
"I’m living each day as though it is normal but I am dead inside," she wrote of learning her husband had reconnected with his mistress. "My husband is better connected than I am, he is adored by all and makes much more money. I’m feeling so many things right now. Anger, sadness, shame, most of all embarrassment. I am embarrassed that I once believed I was worthy of love in the first place."
Around this time, she consulted with a divorce lawyer, telling her about a recent incident where Shamji […]
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