New Brunswick

Saint John family fears for their lives after son's death in Halifax

Afghan-Canadians claim son was threatened before his death

Posted: October 30, 2017
Last Updated: October 30, 2017

The family of Sardar 'Joshua' Ajmeer Nawabi say he was very upset two days before his death, telling them he wanted to move to Saint John. (Roger Cosman, CBC)

The family of an Afghan-Canadian man who died under suspicious circumstances in Halifax last month say he feared for his life in the days before he died.

The 20-year-old, identified by police as Sardar Ajmeer Nawabi, is known as Joshua to his family, who live in Saint John.

Two days before her son's death, Fawza Nawabi says, he phoned to say he was moving to New Brunswick because he had been threatened by a member of the Afghan-Canadian community.

ADVERTISEMENT

Joshua died in hospital Sept. 17 after being found in need of emergency medical assistance by emergency responders in a Clayton Park apartment.

His cause of death has not been revealed.

Family shares their story 

Members of Nawabi's family gathered in their west Saint John living room Friday to share their story with CBC News.

They arrived in Canada as refugees two years ago after fleeing Afghanistan, where they say their conversion to Christianity was followed by death threats from two members of the extended family.

Joshua went to school in London, Ont., before moving to Halifax, where friends said he could find work.

His family says he had a job in an Iranian restaurant in the Nova Scotia capital city.

Sardar 'Joshua' Ajmeer Nawabi died in Halifax Sept. 17 under what police say are "suspicious" circumstances. No charges have been laid. (CBC)

ADVERTISEMENT

Following his death, police arrested a 24-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man who were at the scene, an apartment in Clayton Park, and were "known to the victim."

Halifax Regional Police Const. Dianne Penfound told CBC News the two were later released without charges.

The following week the pair, along with a 52-year-old woman, voluntarily attended a second meeting at police headquarters for further questioning.

"None of these individuals have been charged," said Penfound.

"The investigation led by the homicide unit of the integrated criminal investigation division is ongoing at this time."

The three are not in custody and Penfound said police are not looking for any other individuals.

Living in fear 

ADVERTISEMENT

The lack of news is deeply troubling for the Nawabi family.

With her second son, Jonathan, translating, Fawza Nawabi said Joshua was clearly frightened during their final phone conversation, telling her he wanted to return to live with his family.

"He was not comfortable, he was crying, he just started crying. And I said to him, 'Why are you crying?' He said, 'The people hit me.'" 

Fawza said she urged her son to go to police but he refused, saying both he and the family in Saint John would then be in danger.

Jonathan Nawabi said two days later police, accompanied by a translator, arrived at the family's west Saint John home.

They had a photograph of Joshua, and told Fawza: "Somebody killed your son in Halifax."

ADVERTISEMENT

The younger Nawabi says his father now fears for the family's safety.

"All night, no sleeping, just watching out the windows, does somebody come here? Coming [to] kill us? Because we are not comfortable here at night."

Fawza Nawabi is also upset that her son's clothing and possessions have not been sent to the family.