Jury hears wiretap of accused in canal deaths

Members of the public in the courtroom for the Shafia murder trial shook their heads in disgust as the jury began to hear wiretap evidence of the three accused discussing the deaths of four family members.

Police bug taped family members talking about night 4 females died

Tooba Mohammad Yahya and husband Mohammad Shafia and their son Hamed Mohammed Shafia are escorted by police officers into the Frontenac County Courthouse on the first day of their trial in Kingston, Ont., in October. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Members of the public in the courtroom for the Shafia murder trial shook their heads in disgust as the jury began to hear wiretap evidence of the three accused discussing the deaths of four family members.

Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son, Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

The recording, from a police bug in the Shafia family van, captured the trio dismissing police claims that videotape might exist of one of the family's cars going into the Rideau Canal.

That car — containing the bodies of Shafia sisters Zainab,19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 50 — was discovered submerged in the canal in June 2009.

The Shafia car being pulled from the Rideau Canal in June 2009. (Trial evidence photo)
On Thursday afternoon, the court heard the three accused talking about the investigation, unaware that police were recording their conversation.

According to the prosecution's opening address, police had asked the family to come back to Kingston to show them how they believed the car accidentally went into the locks and claim some of belongings that were seized.

Police really intended to plant a bug in their vehicle and record the three accused as they drove back to Montreal.

Police claimed video existed

Investigators went back to the scene with the family that day, 20 days after the bodies had been found. One of the investigators told Hamed that police had recently learned there was a camera recording the site and they'd soon be analyzing the video.

According to the prosecutor, there was no such camera. But police led the family to believe there might be one for the purpose of recording their conversation.

On the way back to Montreal, on a recording played for the jury Thursday, the three accused discuss the possibility there might be a video. They quickly dismiss any notion of its existence.

Police told the accused that a camera on the white building seen in this photo may have captured the car going into the water. (Trial evidence photo)
"No, had there been one there, they would have checked it first thing and they would have held you to account that night," Shafia is heard saying.

Yahya says it was pitch black outside and there was no glimmer of light. She says the police are lying and Shafia agrees.

The wiretap evidence came after another family member took the stand for the prosecution.

Yahya's uncle, Latif Hyderi, told the court that one of the sisters married simply to get revenge for cruelty suffered at the hands of her father.

Zainab had told Hyderi that she was sacrificing herself for her sisters' freedom. 

Marriage annulled

Hyderi's identity was protected under a publication ban until his testimony concluded Thursday afternoon.

Latif Hyderi spoke to reporters outside the courtroom Thursday. (Radio-Canada)
Hyderi testified that he tried to convince Zainab to marry his son, but she refused. She said she wanted to marry her boyfriend to get out of her father's house.

The marriage went ahead, but left the family in turmoil. It was annulled after only one day.

When Hyderi told Shafia about the conversation with his daughter, he said it was a good thing he wasn't there, or he would have killed her.

Hyderi told the jury that Shafia called him and said his daughter was "a very dirty whore," and wondered why she was dishonouring her father.

He also said in 20 years, he'd never heard Shafia call Zainab by her name. He referred to her as a "black snake."

After he finished testifying, Hyderi spoke to reporters outside the courthouse and said this has been a terrible weight on his shoulders and he's relieved it's now been lifted.

The trial continues Monday with more of the wiretap evidence.