The residents of Thorncliffe Park were emotionally shaken on 29 November, 2014, when three people were found dead in a third floor residential unit of a family oriented apartment building.
The Toronto police discovered the bodies around 4:30 p.m., hours after a man had fallen off the Leaside Bridge in an apparent suicide onto the southbound lane of the Don Valley Parkway. The man was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by a vehicle.
Talking to the media, the Toronto Police homicide detective Tam Bui stated that although there was some correlation between the triple homicide and the event at the DVP earlier that day, the exact connection was under investigation.
Since then, the police have released the victims’ identities as Zahra Mohamoud Abdille, 43, and her two sons, Faris Abdille, 13, and Zain Abdille, 8. The man on the DVP has also been confirmed as the husband and father, Yusuf Osman Abdille, 50.
“It is very shocking and unexpected. I cannot imagine how things are now for the friends, family, and relatives of these innocent people. It makes me realize how short a lifetime can be,” said Faizan Amir, a resident at the 85 Thorncliffe high-rise, the scene of the triple murder case.
As written by CBC News and the Toronto Star, Zahra and her sons had spent several weeks in July 2013 at Dr. Roz’s Healing Place, a women’s shelter in Scarborough, to escape domestic abuse.
According to the Toronto Star, she had tried twice to file an ex parte motion to gain sole custody of her children, but as an ex parte motion is only granted in extreme cases to protect children, she was unable to provide enough evidence to support her case. The newspaper reported that she had also tried to get a divorce, but was unable to afford a lawyer and did not qualify for legal aid from the government.
With all the odds against her, she was forced to return to her husband’s home, where she was found dead along with her two children this November.
When asked what may have prevented Zahra from speaking out, Selina McCallum, a Grade 12 student, said, “I think that she did not want to risk losing her children. If a mother doesn’t find somewhere to live, Children’s Aid may step in and take her children away from her. Additionally, I think she also feared the situation getting out of hand. Her husband could have been furious with her for letting people intervene into their personal lives. She could have also feared her family, friends, and neighbours finding out the truth about her abusive relationship because she didn’t want to worry anyone, especially her family.”
“I believe the family of three felt trapped. Having no man power and control over family issues, the only thing the mother could do was to protect her children, even though she was legally married to her husband,” said Faizan.
Where does the legal system stand, why could not it protect the ill-fated mother? Questions like these are being raised by some. Rabia Mahmood, a senior student, said, “I think the legal system failed her. It’s true that she might not have enough evidence, but I believe that something could be done about it, some steps should’ve been taken. In her case, nothing was done.”
Following the triple homicide, NDP critic Niki Ashton filed a motion for a national action plan to address domestic violence in a parliamentary committee for the Status of Women on 4 December, according to the Star.
“It is a heart-wrenching case of the way the system has failed Canadian women: no access to housing, no access to legal aid, nowhere to go. This is what happened to Mrs. Abdille,” she stated at the meeting.
The motion was discussed, then denied. In her interview with the Toronto Star, Ashton said, “The federal government is failing to take leadership on preventing violence against women. It’s clear that we need comprehensive action and sadly the government is nowhere to be found on that front.”
The government’s move perturbs many. “It was wrong of the government to deny this motion. It means that more victims of domestic violence may have to suffer the same fate as her. They will continue to be abused, and may never receive help if the system does not change,” said Rabia.
A candlelight vigil was held for Zahra and her sons on 2 December in front of 85 Thorncliffe, and a funeral service was held at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque on Bethridge Road on 5 December. The police are still investigating the cause of death and the role of the father in the deaths of his wife and sons.