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Family of murdered Toronto physician 'destroyed,' court hears

Dr. Mohammed Shamji and Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji are shown in this image from Fric-Shamji's facebook page. A Toronto man who killed his wife, stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it in a river is scheduled to have a sentencing hearing today. Neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji, 43, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the death of his physician wife, Elana Fric Shamji. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook MANDATORY CREDIT
May 08, 2019 - 3:06 PM

TORONTO - Ana Fric says she would have given up on life after her daughter's brutal murder but her three young grandchildren give her a reason to live.

Elana Fric Shamji was killed by her husband Mohammed Shamji two days after filing for divorce in 2016. Fric and her husband are now raising the couple's kids, two daughters now aged 14, 11, and a five-year-old son.

"I would have died except that the children have given me a purpose to live," Fric told Shamji's sentencing hearing at a Toronto court Wednesday. "I see my daughter in them every day, and I talk to her at her grave site."

Fric said her daughter's slaying has shattered the family, leaving them heartbroken and angry.

"He has destroyed all of our lives," she said, wiping away tears. "Elana was the child that every parent could hope for."

Fric's granddaughters were in the courtroom as several emotional victim impact statements were read, and watched their father stand in the prisoner's box to address the court.

"That night I should have killed myself and not Elana," said Shamji, dressed in a blue suit.

"You should have," Fric Shamji's sister, Caroline Lekic, yelled in response.

Last month, Shamji, a 43-year-old neurosurgeon, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the death of 40-year-old Fric Shamji, a well-respected family physician with a thriving practice.

For Fric, Wednesday's court session was a moment she has waited for since Nov. 30, 2016, the day her daughter died. She had refrained from speaking earlier as she would have likely had to testify at Shamji's first-degree murder trial that was scheduled to begin last month.

Shamji pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial, which also saved his 14-year-old daughter from testifying against him as the Crown's key witness.

Court heard that the Frics both came to Canada separately from Croatia and met while working at automotive plants in Windsor, Ont. They had two daughters.

The family lived a modest life and Fric Shamji worked part-time jobs as a teenager to help with expenses, her mother said. She excelled at academics, earning two degrees at university in four years.

Her parents thought she'd become a teacher 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 told her.

Both parents worked up to 16 hours a day to help their daughter pay for medical school. Fric Shamji met her future husband while doing a residency in Ottawa. The two settled in Toronto where they raised their children. She started a clinic and had more than 1,000 patients, court heard.

On the surface, the couple appeared to be happy, but court heard that Shamji physically and verbally abused his wife behind closed doors. The pair got into an argument the day she died, court heard, with, Shamji enraged that his wife wanted out of the marriage, court heard.

He attacked her, broke her neck and ribs, and choked her to death as their three children slept nearby.

Shamji then stuffed his wife's body in a suitcase and dumped it in the Humber River, court heard. He went to work as usual the next morning, performing surgeries while his wife was reported missing. He was arrested a day later, after her body had been found.

Fric said her daughter had been looking forward to a new life after filing for divorce.

"Then everything was taken from her, from us and those children," she said.

Her husband Joe Fric struggled to speak through tears.

"I am an old man, almost 74 years of age, so my loss will end before too long, but the loss of the children will go on for decades and decades," he said.

He said it was difficult to put into words 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. "No parent should ever have to do that."

Fric Shamji's sister also gave a statement to the court, staring directly at Shamji.

"Elana was stolen from her family, her friends, her children, her patients, her colleagues, but most importantly her three children," said Lekic. "The wrong life was taken."

Shamji's defence lawyer, meanwhile, said 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.

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.

A judge is set to deliver the sentence Thursday.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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