Abdul Malik Rustam covered his face with the Muslim women’s garment to gain access to Shaher Bano Shahdady’s apartment after she sought a divorce.
A man who disguised himself in a Muslim woman’s garment to strangle his estranged wife was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 17 years.
Abdul Malik Rustam, 30, donned a face-covering burka and white wedge heels to get into 21-year-old Shaher Bano Shahdady’s Scarborough apartment in July 2011, two weeks after she’d asked for a divorce.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month.
Their 2-year-old son was left alone in the apartment for 15 hours before Shahdady’s body was found on the bathroom floor by her parents, Superior Court Justice John McMahon said.
That Rustam did nothing to alert anyone to check on his son is impossible to fathom and shows “exceptionally callous disregard for that child’s wellbeing,” McMahon said.
“It’s hard to imagine what that child went through,” the judge said. “The only glimmer of hope is that he was so young that hopefully it will fade into the child’s memory.”
Before announcing the sentence, McMahon asked Rustam to stand up, saying: “You took the life of an innocent young woman. You denied your own child the love of his mother.”
Shahdady, who came to Canada as a toddler, was 17 when she married Rustam in an arranged marriage in Pakistan, said McMahon.
Soon after her marriage she became pregnant and returned to Canada to give birth to her son, who had serious heart problems and had a heart transplant. Rustam, a Pakistani citizen, joined her two years later and moved in with her family.
The couple, who had drifted apart over the two years, argued over Shahdady using her cellphone and over her online friendship with a man in Dubai, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Her family also didn’t want her using a cellphone or the Internet.
The tension escalated until Shahdady applied for social assistance and obtained her own apartment in Scarborough, away from her parents’ home. She told Rustam she wanted a divorce and moved to the apartment with her son two weeks before her murder.
Rustam kept coming to visit her and asked to move in with her. She repeatedly refused.
At 1 a.m. on Jul. 22, 2011, Rustam arrived at the apartment in disguise, carrying a pair of gloves and a backpack, a plan in mind to harm his wife, McMahon found.
The “brutal murder” occurred soon after he entered the apartment, McMahon found. The evidence indicates “the courageous young woman fought for her life, leaving deep scratches on Rustam’s face and his DNA under her fingernails,” said McMahon.
A neighbour heard a “gasping scream” and the sounds of furniture being shuffled in that time, McMahon said. There is no evidence that an escalating argument took place, as suggested by the defence, he said.
Rustam left an hour later, still in the burka and carrying a broken shoe, and went back to the Shahdady family home, where he was living. That afternoon, after going to work, he confessed to his brother he had “finished her by the throat.”
Rustam went to back to Shahdady’s apartment that evening, arriving moments after her parents. “He walks in, sees the lifeless body of his wife and leaves immediately,” said McMahon. He said nothing to Shahdady’s parents, who entered the apartment to find Shadady’s body in the bathroom and their grandson crying in the living room.
Rustam went to 43 Division and confessed that he intentionally killed his wife.
Rustam is a man “of limited intelligence,” noted McMahon in his reasons for sentencing.
McMahon noted that Shahdady’s parents did not submit a victim impact statement, only a plea for mercy for their “mentally ill” son-in-law, and that they forgive him.
“Sadly, there is no word in that statement about the loss of their daughter,” said McMahon.
Shahdady’s younger brother, however, described the tremendous loss of his sister.