In a stunning development, neurosurgeon Dr. Mohammed Shamji has pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial to second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji.
Fric, 40, a mother of three, was a respected family physician at Scarborough Hospital and a key member of the Ontario Medical Association’s policy committee.
She died of strangulation and blunt force trauma at the couple’s upscale North York home sometime between the evening of Nov. 30 and the morning of Dec. 1, 2016. Her body was discovered stuffed in a suitcase beside the Humber River in Kleinburg the day after her mother reported her missing.
The suitcase belonged to the victim’s mother — the same one she used to bring her belongings to Canada from her native Croatia decades earlier.
Court heard after an argument in their bedroom that Shamji inflicted several blows, which resulted in her neck being broken. Fric was also strangled.
The couple’s 11-year-old daughter awoke to her mom’s screams, but when she went to their room to see what had happened her father ordered her back to bed.
Experts say the most dangerous time for a woman is when she announces she’s leaving a difficult relationship. Fric had confided in many that she was seeking a divorce.
Fric served her husband with divorce papers on Nov. 28, 2016. Just days later Shamji killed her.
Married in 2004, their marital problems surfaced early, with at least one serious allegation of domestic violence. In July 2005, Shamji entered into a peace bond where he admitted his wife “fears on reasonable grounds” that he would “cause personal injury to her.”
Among the bond’s eight conditions were requirements that he continue psychiatric counselling and seek help from a group that deals with abusive partners. In return, charges were dropped.
Without a criminal record, Shamji was now able to continue with his plans to enter the biomedical engineering PhD program at prestigious Duke University in North Carolina; his wife entered the masters of public policy program and with their newborn daughter, moved to Durham.
But little would change in their volatile marriage. And 11 years later, Shamji was arrested for killing his wife.
The family had moved back to Ottawa in 2009 — now with a second daughter — and then to Toronto when Shamji got his dream job as a surgeon at Toronto Western. Fric eventually joined Scarborough Hospital’s family medicine unit in 2015.
From their social media profiles, theirs was a facade of marital bliss, the happy couple leading glamorous and fulfilling lives, running marathons together and travelling the world.
In reality, Fric told a lawyer Shamji had assaulted her again and she wanted a divorce. Hours before she was murdered, she told friends that “she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” her mother Ana told reporters after Shamji was committed to stand trial last year. “She was so happy to be looking forward with her life after her divorce. Her life with her kids. She didn’t have no life with him. But (her) life was cut too short.”
She and husband Josip now care for the couple’s three children at their Windsor home. Yet they often made the long trip to Shamji’s many court appearances.
“It’s for Elana,” Ana explained. “She cannot speak. She’s six feet down in the grave. But we are her voice. She is telling us, ‘Keep fighting, keep fighting.’Let justice be done.”