MEMBERS of an Afghani refugee family have been jailed for life in Canada for the honour killing of three teenage girls and their stepmother, in a crime which shocked their adopted country.
Mohammad Shafia, the girls' father and husband of the fourth victim, was secretly taped by police describing his daughters as a "disgrace" and complaining that they dated boys and wore inappropriate clothes.
He was sentenced to life in prison along with his second wife, Tooba Yahya – who he was married to illegally – and their 21-year-old son Hamed, the girls' brother.
At least one of the dead girls – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – had unsuccessfully sought help from the police before their deaths.
The bodies were discovered along with that of their stepmother, Rona Amir, inside a car which was submerged in a 19th century canal lock in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped on their way back home to Quebec following a trip to Niagara Falls.
The family had moved to Canada in 2007 as part of a programme for wealthy immigrants.
A Parks Canada employee spotted the car in the Rideau Canal when he arrived for work in 2009. After the grisly discovery, Shafia originally claimed that the four had gone for a late-night joyride organised by Zainab when they went missing.
But police became suspicious following the discovery that reservations had been made for only six members of the extended family in Kingston, when 10 had set out on the holiday in Niagara Falls.
Officers planted wiretaps which recorded Shafia speaking about his daughters in vulgar and graphic language, including the suggestion that the girls had disgraced the family by wearing revealing clothing and dating.
On one recording, he said: "I say to myself: 'Would they come back to life a hundred times, for you to do the same again?'
"They violated us immensely. There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this."
The accused all denied murder but during a three-month trial, prosecutors argued that the vehicle in which the bodies were found, a Nissan Sentra, had been pushed into the canal using the family's Lexus, probably after the four had been killed at another location.
A diary kept by Mrs Mohammad, 53, who entered Canada claiming to be her husband's cousin after he married again polygamously, suggested that she was treated as a servant by Yahya, 42, and beaten by her husband, a father of seven, and his son.
One of the girls had approached the police and asked that her sisters and she be placed in foster care, but had been turned down.
In their defence, lawyers claimed that the remarks captured on the wiretap were in response to the discovery a few days after the deaths of a photograph album which showed the girls with a group of boys.
But after 15 hours of deliberation, a jury found all three defendants guilty of four counts each of murder.
Sentencing them to life, Justice Robert L Maranger of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, said cultural differences between Afghanistan and Canada did not justify the committing of a so-called "honour crime," in which victims are attacked to defend a perceived threat to the honour of the family.
"It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous, more honourless crime," he said.
"The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honour, a notion of honour that is founded upon the domination and control of women."
The defendants have said that they will appeal. After the verdict, Yahya said: "I am not a murderer and I am a mother – a mother!"