British Columbia

Rafay and Burns guilty of murder

Two West Vancouver men have been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder by a Seattle jury, and will spend the rest of their lives in a U.S. prison.

Two West Vancouver men have been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder by a Seattle jury, and will spend the rest of their lives in a U.S. prison.

Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, both 28, had been charged with killing Rafay's mother, father and sister in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue in 1994.

The prosecution maintained the pair killed the family in order to collect on insurance and the estate.

The crime scene in July 1994 at Rafay's parents' home was gruesome. Atif lured his mother, Sultana, downstairs – and then she, her husband Tariq and autistic daughter Basma were beaten to death by Burns with a baseball bat.

Later, back at home in Canada, a hidden camera filmed Rafay and Burns laughing about the night the family was killed. And Burns boasted about killing Basma – to undercover Mounties posing as gangsters.

Taking the stand during the trial, Burns insisted his apparent confession was just a story he made up.

King County Deputy Prosecutor James Konat says Burns simple wasn't believable. "His explanation for his false confession was almost as sordid


Rafay's father, Tariq Rafay
as his admissions of his responsibilities in these murders."

The two men – then in their teens – had returned to B.C. after the murders and were arrested by the RCMP in 1995 following the undercover operation.

They were sent back to the U.S. to stand trial following a six-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada – but only after King County prosecutors assured Canada they would not seek the death penalty.


Rafay's mother, Sultana Rafay

The case had gone to the jury last Friday, following a six-month trial.

Konat notes the case has taken almost 10 years, which he calls "a very, very long time.

"We are grateful not only for the perseverance shown by the Bellevue Police Department, the elected King County prosecutor and most importantly, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – and of course, 12 impartial jurors," he says.


Rafay's sister, Basma Rafay
Another of the prosecutors involved, Roger Davidheiser, says the jury didn't let the pair get away with murder.

"They believed they could commit the perfect murder, and 12 good citizens of this county proved that they couldn't," he says.

The judge says after six months, the jury is exhausted and will need time to recover from the experience. All 12 are now receiving counselling.

Bellevue police Detective Bob Thompson says watching the case for 10 years to its end is bittersweet.

"Three people lost their lives, and two more are going to prison for the rest of their life and so it's a sad day," he says. "It's not something where we're high-fiving everybody."

Rafay and Burns will now serve three consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole. Their sentencing will be confirmed at a later hearing.

Defence lawyers for the pair are already working on their appeal.

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