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St. John's Syrian community shocked by woman's slaying; police lay murder charges

Ibrahim Al Ahmad is the estranged husband of the woman found dead on a secluded road in Outer Cove on Tuesday morning. Police have determined the woman was a victim of homicide. Al Ahmad was already facing multiple charges of assault, forcible confinement and making threats. (Ibrahim Al Ahmad/Facebook - image credit)
Ibrahim Al Ahmad is the estranged husband of the woman found dead on a secluded road in Outer Cove on Tuesday morning. Police have determined the woman was a victim of homicide. Al Ahmad was already facing multiple charges of assault, forcible confinement and making threats. (Ibrahim Al Ahmad/Facebook - image credit)

The St. John's Syrian community is grieving and expressing shock following the slaying this week of a mother of five children who went to police several months ago about alleged abuse at the hands of her husband.

CBC News has confirmed that Nariman Abdul Alghafour was the woman found dead Tuesday morning inside an abandoned home on Liam Drive, a secluded gravel road in Outer Cove.

It's also been confirmed that her husband, Ibrahim Alahmad, 36, who was under a court order to stay away from his wife and children, staggered to an automotive shop located next door to the abandoned house, covered in blood, and with wounds to his neck and wrist.

On Thursday afternoon, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary issued a press release, announcing that a 36-year-old is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The RNC is not identifying the accused "to protect the identity of the victim," but those in the Syrian community are grief-stricken.

"The news was horrible and is still horrible and everyone is still struggling to believe it," said Mona Alkhalil, a friend of the victim and an outspoken member of the Syrian community, which includes roughly 200 families on the northeast Avalon Peninsula.

A household torn apart by abuse

Multiple sources and a police briefing have helped CBC News piece together some of what happened Tuesday morning, and court documents paint a picture of a household torn apart by allegations of abuse.

"Everyone is mad at this point because he should not have been released outside in the street," said Alkhalil.

The couple and two children came to Canada from Syria more than a decade ago, according to those who know them, and they had three more children after settling in St. John's.

The woman's body was discovered at this abandoned property on Liam Drive, say police.
The woman's body was discovered at this abandoned property on Liam Drive, say police.

The woman's body was discovered at this abandoned property on Liam Drive, say police. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

But court documents accuse Alahmad of being abusive to his wife and children, and he was already facing a long list of charges, including assault with a weapon, making threats and forcible confinement. Some of the charges are as fresh as two months ago.

While the charges were laid in December and January, the alleged offences date back as far as 2012.

At one point, Nariman and her children were placed in a shelter for family members experiencing domestic violence, but they recently returned to their publicly owned townhouse on Middleton Street in the Virginia Park area of St. John's. Neighbours say new doors and locks were installed on the house as an added security measure.

Few hints of trouble

Documents show there was an arrest warrant issued in January for Alahmad after he failed to show for a scheduled appearance. He was taken into custody but was released in late January, on the condition that he not have any contact with his wife, children and a list of others.

According to the docket, his next court appearance is scheduled for March 20.

Mona Alkhalil said there were very few hints of trouble in the relationship until recent months, when the couple were separated. That's when Nariman started sharing details of her marriage.

"For years she was too scared to tell the truth about him," said Alkhalil, adding that Alahmad put very strict limits on his wife and family.

Alkhalil described Alahmad as aggressive and said Nariman was very tolerant and passive.

"She just wanted to live in peace and take care of her kids," said Alkhalil.

A deadly morning

Police say Nariman was last seen on Middleton Street on Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

A blue Hyundai Elantra that neighbours say is linked to Alahmad travelled the five kilometres from Middleton Street to Liam Drive around the same time Tuesday morning, and police are looking for security video of the car.

Police believe this blue Hyundai Elantra is linked to a homicide that occurred at a vacant home on Liam Drive in Outer Cove on Tuesday morning.
Police believe this blue Hyundai Elantra is linked to a homicide that occurred at a vacant home on Liam Drive in Outer Cove on Tuesday morning.

Police says this blue Hyundai Elantra is linked to the homicide. (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)

A bloody and injured Ibrahim Alahmad was present on Liam Drive on Tuesday morning.

A woman who works at an alternator shop on Liam Drive, next door to the abandoned house, described what she encountered just before 10 a.m. as traumatic and numbing.

"It's nothing like I've experienced in my life," the woman, who cannot be identified because she is a witness, said Thursday morning.

The woman was working in her second-floor office when she noticed on the security camera monitor a man walking toward the business.

Covered in blood

She came downstairs to the front counter, she said, and saw a man squatting on the floor "with his hands across his neck, his head down."

"That's when I saw all the blood," said the woman, who could see cut marks on the man's neck and wrist.

The woman immediately called 911. Having noticed the man was unusually calm and speechless, she asked for police officers to respond, in addition to paramedics.

"I felt scared because he was a very eerie calm, not panicky. I show more expression when I have a paper cut than this person covered in blood, so I was scared," she said.

The woman was not aware at the time that a horrible crime had taken place next door in a derelict structure that used to be her grandmother's home.

CBC News shared a photo with the woman of Ibrahim Alahmad, and she said it was the same man who stumbled into her workplace.

Feelings of guilt

Since the incident, the woman said, she's been racked with feelings of guilt, wondering if she could have done something to save the woman. She also gets chills thinking about what might have happened if the man had turned violent.

The woman said she learned through media reports later in the day that a suspicious death had occurred next door.

"I am a bit emotional because of all the what-ifs," she said

The Syrian community is also hungry for answers.

Mona Alkhalil said Nariman's body has not yet been released to the community to allow for a proper Islamic funeral.

As for Ibrahim Alahmad, Alkhalil said she hopes he survives his injuries.

"People are mad [but] they don't want him to die. They are praying for him to heal and go to the jail and have bitter times remembering and suffering from what he did," she said.

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