TORONTO – Relatives of a Toronto woman murdered by her husband expressed heartbreak and rage Wednesday, telling a court her death had shattered their family.
Their emotional statements came at the sentencing hearing for Mohammed Shamji, a 43-year-old neurosurgeon who pleaded guilty last month in the death of 40-year-old Elana Fric Shamji, a well-respected family physician.
“He has destroyed all of our lives,” Fric Shamji’s mother, Ana Fric, told the court. “Elana was the child that every parent could hope for.”
Court heard Fric Shamji had served her husband with divorce papers two days before he attacked her, broke her neck and ribs, and choked her to death as their three children slept nearby.
Shamji stuffed his wife’s body in a suitcase and dumped it in the Humber River, court heard. He then went to work as usual, performing surgeries while his wife was reported missing. Fric Shamji’s body was found a day after she was last seen on Nov. 30, 2016, and police arrested Shamji 24 hours later.
Fric said she and her husband are now raising the couple’s three children.
“Instead of playing with their mother, they have to lay flowers on her grave,” a teary Fric told the court. “I thank God everyday for the children. They are the only things that keep me alive.”
WATCH: Mother of Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji speaks with reporters (March 2, 2017)
Court has heard that heard the couple’s marriage was volatile and included physical and verbal abuse of Fric Shamji by her husband. Fric said her daughter had been looking forward to a new life after filling for divorce, away from the abusive relationship she had with Shamji.
“Then everything was taken from her, from us and those children,” she said.
Fric Shamji’s sister also gave a statement to the court, staring at Shamji, who was dressed in a blue suit as he sat in the prisoner’s box.
“Elana was stolen from her family, her friends, her children, her patients, her colleagues, but most importantly her three children,” said Carolin Lekic. “The wrong life was taken.”
Fric Shamji’s mother told the court her daughter had always been a good kid, working a part-time job as a teen and performing well in school. Her parents thought she’d become a teacher after university but one day, in her early 20s, Fric Shamji surprised her mother with a letter of acceptance to medical school at the University of Ottawa, court heard.
“Mom, aren’t you proud of me?” Fric recalled her daughter saying at the time.
“Of course!” Fric remembered responding.
She and her husband worked overtime, logging long days to help pay their daughter’s way through medical school. Court heard Fric Shamji became a well-respected family physician with more than 1,000 patients.
Her father, Joe Fric, described the sorrow and pain he’s endured since the day he had to identify his daughter’s body at the morgue.
“Going to identify my daughter will haunt me forever,” he said through tears. “No parent should ever have to do that.”
Shamji’s defence lawyer, meanwhile, said about 14 letters had been filed with the court in support of his client.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” said Liam O’Connor.
He said Shamji had a sterling career, coming out of high school with Ontario’s top average. Shamji eventually went to medical school at Queen’s University, where he won the class’s gold medal. He authored 92 academic articles and became a pioneer in neurosurgery, O’Connor said.
He has performed more than 1,000 surgeries, and hundreds of them were “life saving,” the lawyer said.
“He has three wonderful children he loves dearly,” he said. “Sadly, and unfortunately, this crime is what now defines him.”
A second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years. The Crown and defence are both asking the court to set the parole ineligibility period for Shamji at 14 years.