Toronto

Family of slain Elana Fric 'destroyed,' court told at Mohammed Shamji's sentencing

Relatives of a Toronto woman murdered by her husband express heartbreak and rage, telling a court her death had shattered their family.

Husband and disgraced neurosurgeon faces automatic life sentence

Ana Fric, mother of slain family doctor Elana Fric, delivered a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Mohammed Shamji, 43, on Wednesday. Shamji pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder in the death of his wife of 12 years.

Relatives of a Toronto woman murdered by her husband expressed heartbreak and rage Wednesday, telling a court her death had shattered their family.

Their emotional statements came at the sentencing hearing for neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji, 43, who pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Elana Fric, a well-respected family physician. 

"He has destroyed all of our lives," the victim's mother, Ana Fric, told the court. "Elana was the child that every parent could hope for."

Shamji brutally attacked Fric, his wife of 12 years, in their family home two days after she served him with divorce papers, according to an agreed statement of facts. Court heard in April that the prominent Toronto neurosurgeon repeatedly beat Fric on the night of her murder, breaking her neck and ribs before choking her to death as their three young children slept. 

Ana Fric said she and her husband are now raising the couple's children.

"Instead of playing with their mother, they have to lay flowers on her grave," a teary Fric told the court. "I thank God every day for the children. They are the only things that keep me alive."

'Stolen from her family'

Family, friends, colleagues and others affected by Shamji's actions also delivered victim impact statements before the judge hands down a sentence.

Fric's sister gave a statement while staring at Shamji, who was dressed in a blue suit as he sat in the prisoner's box.

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

Fric's father, Joe Fric, described 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 through tears. "No parent should ever have to do that."

Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji was a family doctor in Scarborough and a mother of three when she was killed. She and Shamji met while attending medical school in Ottawa and married in 2004. (Twitter)

Shamji's defence lawyer, meanwhile, said about 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 in Kingston, Ont., where he won the class's gold medal.

He has performed more than 1,000 surgeries, and hundreds of them were "life-saving," the lawyer said.

"He has three wonderful children he loves dearly," he said. "Sadly, and unfortunately, this crime is what now defines him."

Shamji addressed the court, saying he had betrayed his family.

"Your honour, I killed my wife. She was my friend and the mother of our children," he said. "That night, I should have killed myself and not Elana."

Mohammed Shamji addressed the court after an emotional day of victim impact statements on Wednesday. On Thursday, he received a life term with no chance of parole chance for 14 years in the second-degree murder of his wife. (Pam Davies/CBC)

'Adored by patients'

Colleagues say Fric was a vibrant, dedicated family physician at the Scarborough Hospital who juggled roles as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and as a member of the health policy committee at the Ontario Medical Association.

She was "adored by patients" and was an avid runner who tried to be the "perfect wife and mother," Toronto physician Dr. Allyson Koffman said.

Fric's body was found on Dec. 1, 2016, in a suitcase near an underpass in Vaughan, Ont., approximately 35 kilometres north of the city. Shamji had placed the suitcase in a vehicle and disposed of it in the Humber River.

Fric was found to have died from strangulation and blunt-force trauma. Court heard the couple's marriage was volatile and included both physical and verbal abuse of Fric by her husband.

Shamji was arrested at a coffee shop in Mississauga, west of the city, the following day. He has been in custody at a Toronto-area detention centre since his arrest nearly two and a half years ago. 

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence but a judge may set parole eligibility at a point between 10 and 25 years.

Crown prosecutors and Shamji's defence lawyers put forward a joint sentencing submission on Wednesday calling for Shamji to be eligible for parole after 14 years. Court will reconvene on Thursday at 10 a.m.

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp and CBC News