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)