Former U of T professor pleads guilty to second-degree murder of wife

Mohammed Shamji, Elena Fric-Shamji were both U of T faculty

Former U of T professor pleads guilty to second-degree murder of wife

Former University of Toronto professor and neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji pleaded guilty at his pre-trial on April 8 to the second-degree murder of his wife, Dr. Elena Fric-Shamji, who was also a U of T professor and physician.

The murder occurred on November 30, 2016, two days after Fric-Shamji had filed for divorce after 12 years of marriage, which the court heard had been marked by verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Testimony from the preliminary inquiry included descriptions of repeated sexual assaults and one instance of Shamji choking Fric-Shamji until she lost consciousness.

In May 2016, Fric-Shamji had initiated divorce proceedings “after years of unhappiness,” but Shamji pleaded for more time to work through their problems, according to an agreed statement of facts read to the court.

The couple reconciled but the marriage continued to deteriorate until Fric-Shamji served divorce papers, which was met by resistance from Shamji. In an argument shortly after, he struck Fric-Shamji “multiple times, causing her significant blunt force injuries all over her body, including a broken neck and broken ribs. He then choked her to death,” according to the statement of facts.

Fric-Shamji’s body was found on December 1, 2016. Shamji was arrested the following day and charged with murder by Toronto Police a few days after.

The charge of second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

According to the statement of facts, Shamji went about his day-to-day business, including performing surgeries, the day after the murder.

Shamji has been held in a GTA detention centre since the murder. He pleaded guilty two days before jury selection was to take place.

The couple met at the University of Ottawa where Fric-Shamji was attending medical school and Shamji was completing his residency. Two of their three children, now 11 and 14, were present at the pre-trial, along with numerous family and friends who all wore purple ribbons to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence. 

Jean DeMarco, the lawyer for the victim’s family, told reporters that his clients were “satisfied” and “pleased” with the result.

Shamji will return to court to face a sentencing hearing on May 8 in downtown Toronto.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline’s 24-hour crisis line:

1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free)

1-866-863-7868 (TTY)

416-863-0511 (Toronto)

U of T student Samuel Marrello sentenced to 12 months probation, no jail time

Marrello was convicted of assault causing bodily harm against another student, found not guilty of sexual assault

U of T student Samuel Marrello sentenced to 12 months probation, no jail time

Content warning: descriptions of sexual violence.

U of T student Samuel Marrello has been sentenced to 12 months of probation and no jail time for the crime of assault causing bodily harm against a fellow U of T student.

Marrello was also charged with sexual assault, but was found not guilty of that charge in the verdict delivered on September 25.

Marrello was originally accused of hitting and sexually assaulting the complainant, who cannot be named due to a publication ban protecting her identity, while she was intermittently blacked out from intoxication and apparently could not consent to sex.

Following the verdict, the Crown sought a four-month jail sentence and 12 months of probation, while Marrello’s defence counsel sought a suspended sentence.

The incident occurred on April 1, 2017 and the trial began more than a year later on June 25, 2018.

The sentencing was handed down on February 4 by Justice C. Ann Nelson after a months-long deliberation process.

The deliberation

The complainant did not submit a victim impact statement, nor did she attend any of the sentencing dates.

In its arguments, the Crown called Marrello’s actions a “betrayal of trust” and a case of “gratuitous, demeaning violence.”

The Crown added that there is no indication that Marrello would not commit the same crime again, adding that he poses “some risk to future sexual partners.”

In court, Nelson read from her judgment that Marrello has already suffered collateral damage from the charges, including media coverage, online attacks, and relocation to Kingston after his roommates asked him to vacate their apartment.

She added that Marrello is a young man of otherwise good character, who is regarded as “intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious.”

Nelson said that his friends and family, many of whom were in court to support him, would provide a framework to prevent this from happening in the future.

Though the complainant’s “injuries were not insignificant” and Marrello’s actions were “reckless” and “opportunistic,” Nelson said that the “objective of rehabilitation remains large” and she thus found that a jail sentence was not appropriate.

Marrello will need to do 50 hours of community service during his probation, and have no contact with the complainant or attend any place where she might be, unless it is because they both study at U of T.

University’s response

When asked if the university would be taking any action, U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church wrote to The Varsity, “We can’t discuss the specifics of a particular case because of personal privacy.”

“In general, when we are aware of conditions imposed by the court, the university ensures that measures and steps are in place to support those conditions.”

According to the U of T Code of Student Conduct, which governs students’ behaviour, “No person shall otherwise assault another person, threaten any other person with bodily harm, or knowingly cause any other person to fear bodily harm.”

Marrello’s lawyer did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment. The Crown declined to comment on the sentence.

Campus Police have apprehended Hart House threat suspect

Apprehension follows yesterday’s community alert

Campus Police have apprehended Hart House threat suspect

Following yesterday’s alert about an individual apparently threatening action against Hart House, Campus Police announced today that the person in question has been taken into custody.

According to the community alert, Campus Police suspected a man by the name of Bojan Landekic, who is said to have previously trespassed on U of T property.

Toronto Police are involved in this matter and further information will be released as it becomes available.

Former U of T medical student convicted of rape in Calgary

Prachur Shrivastava’s conviction a first under Calgary’s Third Option program

Former U of T medical student convicted of rape in Calgary

Content warning: descriptions of sexual violence.

Former U of T medical student Prachur Shrivastava has been found guilty of a sexual assault that occurred in Calgary in 2014. According to the CBC, the conviction is believed to be the first of its kind under Calgary’s Third Option program, which allows complainants to take time before deciding whether to report the crime to police.

The program was created in 2011 and gives sexual assault survivors the option of having a rape kit collected and stored for up to one year as they decide whether to report. Previously, complainants would need to report immediately or not have a rape kit collected at all.

Similar programs also exist in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.

The sexual assault occurred on May 31, 2014 when the complainant, whom CBC identified as Laura as her name is under a publication ban, was in Calgary partying with friends.

She became highly intoxicated and passed out at a friend’s house, after which Shrivastava arrived and raped her during the night.

Laura woke up the next morning to see Shrivastava sleeping beside her and testified feeling “disgust and violation.”

Though she described herself as “blackout wasted,” Laura still had a few flashback memories of the night and recalled waking up at one point to see someone raping her, to which she attempted to push him away.

In her decision, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench Jolaine Antonio found Laura to be an “honest witness” and wrote, “I believe [Shrivastava] wanted to obtain sexual gratification from an unconscious stranger, and that is what he did.”

“He deprived her of control over who touched her body and how, and thereby criminally violated her human dignity and autonomy.”

Sentencing has not been announced as of yet.

Shrivastava was enrolled in the Doctor of Medicine program at U of T in 2014–2016, during which he was involved with the University of Toronto Medical Journal, Medical Science Advocacy Toronto, and was the Vice-President Finance at the Faculty of Medicine.

Shrivastava was also enrolled in U of T’s Master of Biotechnology program. According to a student profile put together for its co-op program, Shrivastava was on academic leave from medical school “in pursuit of multifaceted development.”

An unnamed source told the CBC that since taking academic leave, Shrivastava has not completed his degree.

U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church told The Varsity that the university can’t discuss the status of individual students because it is personal information.

Church added that U of T did have “a policy that governs the standards of professional behaviour for all health professional students.”

The majority of the policy details appropriate behaviour in a relationship with a client or patient.

However, the last requirement states that students should not “[behave] in a way that is unbecoming of a practising professional in his or her respective health profession or that is in violation of relevant and applicable Canadian law, including violation of the Canadian Criminal Code.”

A violation of this policy can lead to a reprimand, remedial work, denial of promotion, suspension, or dismissal from a program.

Association of Political Science Students hosts panel on gun violence in Toronto

Discussion centres on root causes of violence, role of policing

Association of Political Science Students hosts panel on gun violence in Toronto

The rise of gun violence in Toronto and its connection to the United States was discussed and debated in a panel hosted by the Association of Political Science Students on November 16, with panelists agreeing that increased policing is not a solution.

The panel included Sureya Ibrahim, a community leader from Regent Park; Julian Tanner, an Associate Professor of Sociology from UTSC; and Marcell Wilson, co-founder of the One-by-One Movement, a non-profit organization founded by a group of former gang and organized crime members to create effective social programming for youth.

The panelists discussed the root causes of the Toronto gun problem and potential remedies for the crisis, beginning with the rate at which gun usage has been increasing in the city.

Tanner, whose research explores youth gangs, youth culture, and criminality in Toronto, credited the rise in guns to “our proximity to the United States.”

Wilson, a reformed gang leader, refers to his past history as the ex-leader of one of Canada’s most notorious gangs, “the Looney Toons.” He echoed Tanner, saying that “guns are not produced in the ghetto. Someone has to bring them here.”

“For as long as there is a lack of financially stable and realistic inclusive social programming, violence and gangs — gun culture — will continue to thrive. I believe that others like myself… with lived experience will make important contributions to the development of these programs,” said Wilson.

Ibrahim followed this by suggesting that the city implement a “multitude approach” to address the increasing violence. Drawing from her experiences as a liaison with Toronto Police Service 51 Division, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Children’s Aid Society, she said that the approach “has to be hand in hand, working with the school system, social workers, and the police.”

All three panelists agreed that Toronto Police need to find alternative approaches to handle the gun problem.

Tanner pulled findings from his research, saying, “Many of the young people that we talked to feel stigmatized by the community they live in and they feel profiled.”

Ibrahim referred to the presence of liaison officers in her area, saying that police “need to learn from the community, not just come and invade the community.”

“You may live in a polarized community and be labelled as a dangerous person simply because you come from this community. Police play a role [in] feeding into that,” said Wilson.

Wilson did not openly dispute the potential benefits of having officers in polarized areas. Instead, he offered more proactive alternatives, such as monetary investments from police into programs like the One-by-One Movement.

“What I would suggest for our local government is to talk to people like us, who are in the community, who have the experience. We are receptive to working with our local government and bridging the gap between polarized communities and the police,” said Wilson.

At the core, said Tanner, “gun violence is a consequence of social and economic inequality and disadvantage.” The panelists agreed that the best route for reducing gun violence would be putting money into social programming.

From statistics and his own research, Tanner confirmed, “Policing by itself is not going to solve the problem.”

7-Eleven at Bloor and Spadina robbed

Police say incident not of public interest

7-Eleven at Bloor and Spadina robbed

Police and emergency response personnel were called to the 7-Eleven at Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue this afternoon in response to an apparent robbery.

Police arrived at the scene at around 1:20 pm, blocking a portion of Spadina for investigation.

According to the Toronto Police Service, the incident is not of any public interest and police are still securing the scene.

There is no word on any possible suspects or people of interest. Details have not been released on possible weapons charges.


Men wanted for allegedly causing life-threatening injuries to 27-year-old man near the Madison Ave. Pub

Police release surveillance images of suspects

Men wanted for allegedly causing life-threatening injuries to 27-year-old man near the Madison Ave. Pub

A group of men are wanted by Toronto police after allegedly causing life-threatening injuries to a man near the Madison Avenue Pub by UTSG.

The incident occurred shortly after 2:00 am on September 23 when police say two groups of men got into an altercation over a spilled drink. Both groups were asked to leave, after which one group followed a 27-year-old man and his friends to a parking lot.

According to police, someone in the group stabbed the victim, while the others allegedly repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head. While the victim was lying on the ground, another man allegedly slammed a large boulder on him.

The victim was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Police are investigating the incident as an attempted murder and have released surveillance images of the suspects.




Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5300 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

Verdict in trial of U of T student: guilty of assault causing bodily harm, not guilty of sexual assault

Samuel Marrello convicted in crime against fellow U of T student

Verdict in trial of U of T student: guilty of assault causing bodily harm, not guilty of sexual assault

Content warning: descriptions of sexual violence.

U of T student Samuel Marrello has been found guilty of assault causing bodily harm against a female U of T student, but not guilty of the more serious charge of sexual assault.

Marrello was charged in connection with an incident that took place on the night of April 1, 2017 near UTSG. The verdict of the months-long trial was delivered on September 25.

The complainant, who cannot be named due to a publication ban protecting her identity, alleged that Marrello hit her and sexually assaulted her while she was intermittently blacked out from intoxication and could not consent to sex.

The complainant used ‘blacked out’ to refer to a lack of memory but not necessarily a lack of consciousness.

Justice C. Ann Nelson ruled that Marrello was not guilty of sexual assault because there is a reasonable doubt about whether the complainant did not consent to it.

However, the sexual activity that they engaged in was rough sex that was found to have caused extensive bruising to the complainant, and Nelson found that Marrello “was reckless when he applied physical force towards [the complainant] not caring whether she consented or not.”

The complainant and Marrello had met when they went on a date in 2016 but had not remained in touch afterward. On the night of April 1, 2017, they both separately went to Einstein’s bar near UTSG and happened to meet again. They spent several hours together at the bar, and during that time, they both became intoxicated.

It was after they left the bar and went to the complainant’s apartment that the assault took place.

Charge of sexual assault

A large portion of the trial centred on the fact that, due to her intoxication, the complainant was unable to remember much of the time when the assault and alleged sexual assault occurred.

“I am of the view that [the complainant] tried to be an honest witness,” wrote Nelson. “Her state of intoxication on the night in question, however, interfered with her ability to accurately recall events.”

However, the complainant testified that she did have some flashes of memory, including that she remembered feeling blunt forces on her body, and feeling as if she was being physically manipulated.

The complainant testified that she was “jolted back to her senses” when Marrello allegedly asked if he could take off his condom, to which she claimed to respond: “I can’t consent to this. I am too drunk.” Marrello confirmed that she said this, but said that she had done so suddenly. They both testified that he immediately stopped and left at her request.

In her decision, Nelson wrote that, “While [the complainant] suffered from significant effects of alcohol consumption during her sexual interaction with Mr. Marrello, I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that she was so intoxicated that she lacked capacity to consent to that activity.”

This was based on, among other things, Marrello’s testimony that the complainant was a conscious and active participant during sexual activity, and it was possible that she consented but could not remember.

However, Nelson added, “A final note: A reasonable doubt as to an absence of consent is not an affirmative finding that [the complainant] consented to sexual activity in the bedroom.”

Charge of assault causing bodily harm

The morning after the assault, the complainant woke up to find extensive bruises on her face, neck, collarbone, inner thighs, and legs.

Nelson questioned whether the complainant’s lack of consent to hitting also meant that she had revoked her consent to sexual activity.

The judge ruled that since it was previously established that the complainant may have consented to sexual activity, finding Marrello guilty of assault causing bodily harm did not mean that he was guilty of sexual assault.

Marrello’s defence on this was his claim that he and the complainant had discussed their preferences for rough sex on the walk to her apartment.

Nelson said that was “implausible” because the complainant had testified that she did not have that preference; only Marrello “admitted that he [had] a preference for rough sex.”

Furthermore, while Marrello did admit to gently slapping the complainant on the face twice, which he claimed to do so at her request, that did not explain why there were bruises elsewhere on her body.

As such, based on, among other things, the complainant’s memory of being hit, her lack of preference for rough sex, and the bruises on her body, Nelson ruled that Marrello was guilty of assault causing bodily harm.

The court will reconvene on October 4 to decide on a date for sentencing.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, you can call:

  • Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free), 1-866-863-7868 (TTY), and 416-863-0511 (Toronto)
  • Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse at 1-866-887-0015
  • Toronto Rape Crisis Centre: Multicultural Women Against Rape at 416-597-8808
  • Good2Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Gerstein Crisis Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

The Varsity has reached out to the defence and the complainant for comment.

Crown prosecutors declined a request for comment.