Quebec coroner launches public inquest into murder of Montreal woman, 2 children

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Dahia Khellaf and her two young sons were killed by her former partner a week after he signed a peace bond, agreeing to stay away from her, the coroner report says. (Dahia Khellaf/Facebook - image credit)
Dahia Khellaf and her two young sons were killed by her former partner a week after he signed a peace bond, agreeing to stay away from her, the coroner report says. (Dahia Khellaf/Facebook - image credit)

Quebec's chief coroner is ordering a public inquest into the 2019 killing of a Montreal woman and her two young children.

Pascale Descary says the inquest will also probe the suicide of the woman's husband and the children's father, who is believed to have killed his family before he killed himself.

In a news release, Descary says new facts have come to light in recent days that require further investigation, but she does not give further details.

Coroner Alain Manseau investigated the four deaths. His report says Dahia Khellaf, 42, and her two sons, Adam, 4, and Aksil, 2, were found in Montreal's Pointe-aux-Trembles borough strangled to death on Dec. 11, 2019.

It says the evidence collected at the scene indicates they were killed by Khellaf's estranged husband, Nabil Yssaad, 46.

Yssaad died after he jumped from a sixth-floor hospital window in Joliette, Que., the day before the bodies were discovered by police who went to the family's home to notify Khellaf of the man's death.

The inert bodies were found placed in bed together, Manseau's report says.

Trying to get away

Manseau's report details the steps Khellaf took to seek help and get away from her abusive, controlling spouse.

In 2018, fearing for her safety and that of the children, Khellaf left her husband who was jealous and violent, the report says. She lodged complaints against him on several occasions for threats and assault.

She attempted to get legal aid and launch divorce proceedings, but her request for financial assistance was turned down, the report says.

CBC
CBC

Twice in August 2018, Yssaad was charged with assault with a weapon and common assault against Khellaf, but he never stood trial.

On Dec. 4, 2019, Yssaad signed a peace bond under section 810 of the Criminal Code. As a result, the charges against him were dropped.

Eventually, Yssaad was ordered by a court not to approach his estranged spouse.

DPCP dropped the ball, report says

In his report, Manseau accuses the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) of not imposing strict enough conditions on Yssaad to protect the woman and her children.

"This woman trusted a doctor, the police, a counsellor, a therapist, prosecutors, a civil lawyer
and judges to protect her and get her out of the cycle of domestic violence, but society failed to protect this woman and her family," Manseau says in the report.

In a news release Wednesday, Descary says the coroner's office will hear witness testimony to establish the circumstances of the four deaths with the greatest possible accuracy.

Descary will appoint an investigator soon to preside over the inquiry, the release says.

"The hearings will allow any person of interest to express themselves concerning the circumstances of these deaths in order to analyze all the contributing factors, and this, with a view to proposing possible solutions for better protection of human life," the release says.

DPCP on the defensive

As these new developments came to light Wednesday, Quebec's Crown made a statement of its own.

The DPCP said "it must rectify certain findings arising from coroner Alain Manseau's report, which are based on factual and legal errors as well as on an erroneous understanding of our directives, applicable practices in domestic violence, the practice of criminal law and the legal framework to which we are subject."

The Crown says three prosecutors were in touch with the victim throughout the proceedings, and that was only because one died and a second was replaced during a vacation period. While the coroner suggests the victim should have been forced to testify, that practice was stopped in 1995, the Crown says.

The Crown says the coroner's suggestion that tracking technology should have been used is moot because that technology wasn't available at the time.

"Consequently, we believe that the interventions and verifications required with the victim, as well as the judicial processing of the file, were carried out in compliance with our guidelines and applicable law," the Crown says.

"Such a report should therefore not discourage victims of domestic violence from filing a complaint."

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