Ahmad Abbas Rahman sat handcuffed in the prisoner’s box of a Newmarket, Ont., courtroom Wednesday afternoon with his head dropped low, a medical mask covering his face, listening to an Arabic interpreter as a judge sentenced him to nine years plus two and a half months in prison.
Last month, the 52-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter after admitting to killing his wife, Ali Alyaa Hameed Ali on Feb. 24, 2021, in the family’s home on Bond Crescent in Richmond Hill. Ali, who was known as Alyaa, was the 41-year-old mother of his four children, aged 19 through nine, and had just hours earlier learned she was four weeks pregnant with the couple’s fifth child.
Rahman and Ali came to Canada from Iraq via the United Arab Emirates as refugees in 2014. They became permanent residents and brought with them enough money to buy a home. According to an agreed statement of facts, their children achieved sufficient fluency to attend school and become Canadian citizens.
Rahman and his wife, however, struggled to establish themselves in Canada largely due to their inability to become fluent in English. Rahman tried but failed at several business ventures and Ali was only able to obtain hourly work as a school lunchroom monitor. Rahman had other assets in the United Arab Emirates but due to his immigration status, was unable to leave Canada because he would not be let back in.
On Feb. 24, 2021, the couple’s pressures mounted and came to a head when an argument erupted between them while Ali was cooking dinner in the basement of the family home as Rahman worked on his English language exercise book. The fight ended with tragic consequences.
Rahman admitted that the couple began fighting about their many issues and the state of their marriage. His wife yelled at him and he told her to be patient with him and to lower her voice so the children would not hear.
He said his wife ran towards him with the knife she was using to prepare dinner and threatened to stab him. Rahman struggled with Ali before stabbing her repeatedly. An autopsy found she had six lethal stab wounds to the neck and 32 additional injuries. Rahman also had self-inflicted wounds to his wrists.
Court heard that at around 6:30 p.m., one of the couple’s daughters, her identity covered by a publication ban, heard her mother yell. She attributed the yell to something innocuous such as breaking (something) or seeing a spider. She did not investigate the cause of the yell any further.
Around 7:45 p.m., that daughter and another child went to the basement to find out when dinner would be ready and saw their parents lying on the floor in a bloodied living room area. They ran to get their brother who called 911. When police arrived, the brother was standing at the front door, crying hysterically and barely coherent but was able to direct officers to the basement.
Rahman was unresponsive and motionless. There was a stainless-steel kitchen knife within reach of his left hand, laying in a pool of blood. He had a pulse and appeared catatonic. The officers placed him in handcuffs for safety purposes. As they were handcuffing him, they observed deep cuts to both his wrists, which officers bandaged.
Ali was laying on her left side. She had no pulse and it was clear she had been stabbed in the left side of her head. CPR was not performed because rigor mortis had already set in. Ali was pronounced dead at the scene. The school workbook used by Rahman was found under Ali’s body.
The night before, she had gone to hospital after complaining of abdominal pains. It’s then Ali learned, she was four weeks pregnant.
Rahman was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. In handing down her sentence, Madam Justice Michelle Fuerst called it a very sad case. “It is difficult to understand how this couple’s personal circumstances spiraled out of control … without intervention from the community.”
The judge noted it was aggravating that Rahman brutally killed his spouse in their home while their children were home, and by his actions, he killed the couple’s unborn child. “He did nothing to summon medical help.” Although no victim impact statements were submitted, Fuerst said the horror the children experienced that night is obvious and noted that the killing effectively left the children orphaned.
She said mitigating factors included no criminal record, no indication of previous domestic abuse and that the event arose at a time when the couple was living under pressure and stress. She added that Rahman tried to take his own life and mentioned that in October 2020, Ali had found her husband cutting himself with a knife. “He reported to the psychiatrist that he was under stress since coming from Dubai,” and his inability to obtain a Canadian passport which would allow him to travel back to Iraq and Dubai. Ali was also upset that when her mother died in Iraq, she couldn’t travel home for the funeral.
Madam Justice Fuerst agreed with a joint submission from the crown prosecutors and defence attorneys for a sentence of nine years plus two and a half months in prison.
After credit for pre-trial custody, Rahman has six years in prison left to serve in his sentence. He will also be facing deportation. He was given a lifetime weapons ban and has been ordered to submit his DNA to the National DNA Databank.