Mohammed Shamji has admitted to killing his physician wife, Dr. Elana Fric, in December 2016.
The world-renowned neurosurgeon was dressed in a pinstripe suit as he appeared for a pretrial hearing in Ontario Superior Court on Monday morning.
Shamji pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as two of the couple’s three children and Fric’s parents sat in court. It was the first time the kids, now 11 and 14, have seen their father since his arrest.
“Justice will never befall us,” an emotional Ana Fric, Elana’s mother, told reporters outside the downtown Toronto courthouse. “The only justice we will ever have is if she will come back — and she will never come back.”
Shamji has been in custody at a GTA detention centre since his arrest nearly 2½ years ago. Jury selection in his case was scheduled to begin this week.
Shamji was initially charged with first-degree murder and committing an indignity to human remains in the death of his wife, a Scarborough-based family physician and mother of the couple’s three children.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
Shamji will next appear in the downtown Toronto courthouse on May 8 for his sentencing hearing.
Family, friends, colleagues and others affected by Shamji’s actions will have the opportunity to file victim impact statements before he is sentenced.
Murder happened at home while children were asleep
Fric’s body was found in a suitcase near an underpass in Vaughan, Ont., north of Toronto, on Dec. 1, 2016. She died from strangulation and blunt-force trauma. Shamji, her husband of 12 years, was arrested at a coffee shop in Mississauga, west of the city, the following day.
According to a two-page agreed statement of facts read in court Monday, the couple got into an argument at the family home on Nov. 30, 2016 — the same night she was reported missing.
Their three children — then age 3, 8 and 11 — were asleep at the time. But the eldest daughter awoke to the sound of her mother screaming and a clamour of banging coming from her parents’ room.
“Mohammed struck Elana multiple times, causing her significant blunt-force injuries all over her body, including a broken neck and broken ribs,” court documents read. “He then choked her to death.”
When their daughter went to her parents’ room to investigate the noises, the document said, Shamji ordered her back to bed. He then packed Fric’s body into a suitcase.
Shamji put the suitcase in his vehicle and drove about 35 kilometres north of the city. There, he disposed of her body in the Humber River, the statement said. He did not call police.
The suitcase was discovered the next day by a passerby, in the area of Howland Drive and Nashville Road, west of Highway 27.
“In the days after he killed her, Mohammed carried on his daily routines,” the statement of facts said. This included performing surgeries, as soon as the very next day.
Fric filed for divorce 2 days before she was killed
The headline-making case shook Ontario’s medical community and sparked dialogue about domestic violence.
Fric, 40, was a well-respected physician whose expertise was in medical policy. She met Shamji during her medical school days at the University of Ottawa. He was there for a neurosurgery residency.
From a professional perspective, Shamji and Fric were a medical power couple. But according to court documents, their marriage was in trouble at the time Fric went missing. She had filed for divorce in November 2016, just two days before she was murdered.
“The marriage was volatile and dysfunctional, marred by reports of verbal, emotional and at times physical abuse of Elana by Mohammed,” the agreed statement of facts said.