HONOUR KILLINGS: Our final excerpt from new book Without Honour reveals an intriguing interview with Hamed Shafia

Published: October 29, 2012

The discovery of four female bodies in a submerged car on the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ont., more than three years ago led to one of the most high-profile murder trials in Canadian history. Last year, the Shafia family trial cast a spotlight on honour killings in this country as the public struggled to come to terms with what led to the death of teenage sisters Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad. In his new book, Without Honour, Rob Tripp reveals new details about the case and the tragic story behind it.

Mohammad Shafia (front), his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya (middle) and their son Hamed arrive at the Frontenac County Courthouse in Kingston, Ont., Jan. 26, 2012. Lars Hagberg/Reuters

EXCERPT 3

Detective Geoff Dempster was at work on November 11 when he heard a page over the building’s public address system. Barbara Webb, the civilian who first took the missing person report from the family on June 30, was asking for an investigator working on the Kingston Mills case to come to the front reception desk. Webb handed Dempster a large manila envelope that had been delivered to the police station. It contained a DVD and three copies of an eight-page letter written by a self-style Afghan-Canadian independent investigator named Moosa Hadi.

He wrote that he had been deeply saddened by the tragedy at Kingston Mills and shocked by the arrests. Hadi explained that he had spent two hundred hours on an independent investigation of the case.

“I have never made any promise to Mr. Shafia to defend him and his family, but I have made every promise to uncover the truth and I have been paid directly by Mr. Shafia to do this job,” Hadi wrote. He explained that he had recorded an interview with Hamed Shafia, 20, at Quinte, and the DVD in the envelope contained a copy of the digital audio file.

The letter continued: “Eventually Hamed has given me a story that to the best of my knowledge matches with the existed evidences, including evidences on the scene, statements of the witnesses and audio recordings of conversations between the accused persons. I have not shared this story with the two other accused persons or any other individual. I also encouraged Hamed to speak with detectives and he agreed. Audio recordings of the conversations between the three accused persons confirm Hamed’s claim that he was the only one who was aware of what happened to the four family members.”

Police were floored when they listened to the three-hour recording made by Hadi at the detention centre. On it, Hamed revealed a terrible secret that he claimed he had kept for four months. Investigators immediately concluded it was a preposterous lie.

Hamed claimed that his sister Zainab got into the Nissan in the parking lot of the Kingston motel soon after the family arrived there around 2:00 a.m. on June 30, 2009.

“My sister said that she wants to drive the car and just go for a spin and then come back soon,” Hamed told Hadi. He tried to dissuade her and went to his parents’ room, intending to tell them about Zainab’s scheme, but they were asleep so he didn’t wake them. Instead, he decided to drive the Lexus and follow the Nissan, to make sure the group was safe. Rona, Mohammad Shafia’s first wife, was in the car with Zainab because she wanted to buy a phone card. Sahar and Geeti, Zainab’s sisters, were also in the Nissan.

Kingston Mils Locks where the bodies of the sisters Geeti, 13, Sahar, 17, Zainab, 19, and Rona Amir Mohammad were found on June 30, 2009. Postmedia News

Zainab drove north on Highway 15, Hamed told Hadi. She passed the interchange for Highway 401, turned left onto Station Road and then left onto Kingston Mills Road. At the Mills, Zainab stopped the Nissan suddenly and Hamed was unable to avoid a collision. The Lexus rear-ended the Nissan.

“I hit the back but not hard, just the glass was broken, the glass of Lexus car,” Hamed said he discovered, after jumping out to inspect the damage. He began collecting broken pieces of the Lexus and chastised Zainab for driving to the dark, isolated spot. The Nissan’s front wheels appeared to have jumped the curb onto the grass, and the car seemed to be stuck, Hamed said.

“There was a sound, ‘shooo, shooo,’ something like that,” he said, mimicking the noise of spinning wheels. Hamed said his sister told him she wanted to follow him. She would turn the car around and he could lead in the Lexus. Hamed thought she would drive around the large rock outcropping and bring the car back onto the road. Near the rock, “or somewhere like this, I saw them for the last time.”

The conversation between the two men, mostly in Dari, was matter-of-fact and seemingly devoid of emotion. Hamed did not cry or falter as he recounted the final few moments of life of his four family members.

“Okay, so you were busy with the Lexus car,” Hadi suggested.

“Yes.”

“To find out what part had damaged?”

“Yes.”

“And to pick all the pieces that had fallen on the ground?”

“Yes,” Hamed answered. “I had them in my hand when I heard the splash.”

“The splash” was the sound of the Nissan plunging into the water. Hamed told Hadi that he ran to the stone lip of the canal and, although it was very dark, he could see what had happened.

“At that moment, I think one of the lights was showing,” Hamed said. “There was a bit of light showing that I understood that it had fallen here.” In his rush to investigate, Hamed still carried the broken pieces of the Lexus that he had been collecting by the road.

“I put all those pieces around here that I had had in my hand,” Hamed said, explaining that he deposited the chunks of automobile debris at the lip where the Nissan had tumbled into the water, at the very spot where police had found pieces.

There seemed no sadness or anxiety in Hamed’s voice as he told Hadi what steps he took to save his drowning sisters and Rona, after setting down the broken Lexus parts. Hadi encouraged him as he recounted his rescue effort.

“Then after that you went back?” Hadi said.

“To the Lexus to fetch something.”

“Okay, to bring something.”

“Yeah, yeah, before that, the boy says, ‘I heard a horn sound,’ right?” Hamed seemed to remind himself.

“Yeah,” Hadi said, which prompted Hamed to explain that he had done exactly what was necessary to explain the sound reported by young witness Dylan.

“I sounded the horn a bit to see if there was anyone,” Hamed said.

“To help you?” Hadi asked.

“Yes, yeah.”

Hamed said he sounded the horn once, for five seconds, or perhaps twice, but no one came to help so he returned to the edge of the canal with a length of rope that had been in the Lexus. He dangled the rope in the water.

“Okay, you put the rope into the water?” Hadi asked.

“I put it in the water, nothing happened.”

Hamed figured that his waterside rescue effort lasted seven or eight minutes. In that time, he shouted into the darkness: “Zainab, Sahar, Geeti, Rona.” He wiggled the rope.

“I thought they are coming out, but they didn’t,” he recalled. If the brother, watching four family members drown in a submerged car, felt any fear or panic, he did not recall it for Hadi. His inventory of his actions was plain and pathetic: the horn, the rope and calling out. He did not call 9-1-1. He did not leap into the water. He did not run to the houseboat moored nearby to seek help. He was conscientious about one thing: He picked up the broken chunks of the Lexus that he had dropped at the ledge, though he later acknowledged he might have missed some of them in the dark.

“When they didn’t come out, I came back to the car with those pieces. I came back here, then I stood there for a few minutes.”

Hadi asked Hamed why he didn’t call police when he realized the Nissan went into the water.

“First, I thought that if I call the police, they would blame me that she didn’t have licence and, ‘You brought her here,’” Hamed answered.

“Okay, so you thought that the police put the blame on you that, why?”

“For example, they will tell me, ‘This person doesn’t have a licence and came here,’ so I was scared and changed my mind. I decided with myself not to say that I was with them.”

Hamed then decided to drive on to Montreal, as he had planned, leaving his three sisters and Rona underwater.

Excerpt from Without Honour published in the English language in Canada by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright (c) 2012 by Rob Tripp. All rights reserved.

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