Friend of Elana Fric-Shamji remembers fear after Toronto doctor went missing

Click to play video: 'What happened in the hours before it was determined that Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji was murdered?'
What happened in the hours before it was determined that Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji was murdered?
WATCH ABOVE: A close friend of Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji talks about what her family knew about the disappearance. Catherine McDonald has the story – Dec 9, 2016

A friend and neighbour of Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji is speaking out about the fears she had prior to the murder of the the mother-of-three.

Elana Fric Shamji, a prominent Toronto doctor who was allegedly killed by her neurosurgeon husband, Dr. Mohammed Shamji. Her body was found in a suitcase in Kleinburg, Ont. on Dec. 1 after an area resident walking on a bridge looked down, saw the suitcase and notified police.

Police announced on Dec. 2 that the victim’s husband has been charged with one count of first-degree murder. He appeared in court on Saturday and was remanded into custody until Dec. 20.

Dr. Allyson Koffman told Global News Friday that she received a Facebook message from Fric-Shamji’s mother on the evening of Dec. 1 asking if Koffman heard from her daughter.

READ MORE: Publication ban on slain Toronto doctor challenged on social media with #SayHerName

“It was very confusing,” Koffman said of the message, adding she then called Fric-Shamji’s mother.

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“She mentioned to me that (Fric-Shamji’s husband) had taken the children to school that morning – and that was very strange – and that all day long they were unable to get a hold of her,” she said, noting he didn’t normally take the children to school.

Koffman said Fric-Shamji’s mother asked her to check and see if her daughter’s car was gone. She said she went to the house and saw the car in the garage.

Koffman said Fric-Shamji’s mother was so worried that she drove to Toronto from her home in Windsor, Ont., on Friday to see Koffman.

She said told her, ‘This is not good. This is not good. (Shamji) is eating breakfast, he’s too calm. I can’t even have a drop of water in my mouth.’

“After she had told me what she was worried about and we had discussed that he had taken the kids to school by myself. We hadn’t heard from [Fric-Shamji] and she hadn’t called her mother back,” Koffman said.

She said Shamji told Fric-Shamji’s mother ‘she left with her suitcase and just took off.’ Koffman also said he told her the children were fine and not to come. When asked by Fric-Shamji’s mother why her daughter left, Koffman said, “I think he said something about she’s having an affair.”

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READ MORE: Toronto neurosurgeon charged in murder of wife makes court appearance

“I texted her and I got nothing – nothing at all – very strange. She wasn’t picking her phone up. I said (to Fric-Shamji’s mother) call the police and she said, ‘It might be too early,’” she said.

“[Fric-Shamji’s mother] actually said, ‘Is it right to call the police yet? I mean, should we be doing that?’ And I said, Yes! Yes, absolutely call. I know it has been 24 hours, but that’s enough. This is too weird. Call now, and she did – she did. And she was so happy that she called.”

Koffman said she last heard from Fric-Shamji on Nov. 16, expressing that she wished the two talked more often.

“She always said miss you, like she said that so many times. ‘I miss you. I want to go out for coffee. I have to talk to you.’ There’s a lot of stuff … going down and I just want to talk to you,” she said.

“I just said, ‘Are you safe?’,” Koffman said, noting she often says that a lot as a doctor. “And she joked and she said, ‘Oh, he’s not so stupid… he wouldn’t be so stupid.’”

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VIDEO: Friends, colleagues working to honour Toronto family doctor

Click to play video: 'Friends, colleagues working to honour Toronto family doctor'
Friends, colleagues working to honour Toronto family doctor

Toronto police Det. Steve Ryan alluded last week to a relationship that had been troubled – even though social media posts of the couple and family painted a portrait of a blissful relationship.

“I don’t want to get into specifics but there were problems in their marriage,” Ryan said amid reports that Fric-Shamji was preparing to leave her husband.
Koffman said she didn’t hear about a specific abusive situation in her conversations with Fric-Shamji, but added there were difficulties in the marriage.

“They were always holding hands, and kissing, and things like that. They appeared happy, but I knew from what she had told me that she wasn’t.”

Meanwhile, Fric-Shamji’s family issued a statement to express their gratitude for the public’s support as Toronto police continued their search for more evidence.

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READ MORE: Toronto neurosurgeon charged with 1st-degree murder in doctor wife’s death

Officers were looking for keys, a purse and cellphone belonging to Fric-Shamji near the Humber River and a bridge where her body was found, police said.

In their statement, relatives of Fric-Shamji, 40, said they were especially grateful for the support shown for her three young children.

“It has been a kindness for which we are very thankful,” they said in the statement. “We would also like to express thanks to the many friends, neighbours and colleagues who have shared their memories of Elana as a wonderful person, mother, and physician.”

The family urged donations in her honour to be made to a charity that helps those fleeing abusive households.

With files from The Canadian Press

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