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Wife of man accused of running over Toronto cop tells jury she feared for her life


The wife of a man accused of running over a Toronto police officer told jurors Tuesday she feared the two people rushing toward their car in an underground garage that night were going to kill them.

Speaking at times through sobs, Aaida Shaikh recalled the events that led up to the arrest of her husband, Umar Zameer, on July 2, 2021.

Zameer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, who was struck by a car while investigating a stabbing in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall. Court has heard that Northrup and other officers in the garage that night were in plain clothes, meaning not in uniform.

Shaikh said she and her husband, along with their two-year-old son, had just returned to the garage after doing some sightseeing for Canada Day and entered their BMW when she saw a man and woman walk toward them shortly after midnight.

She was initially confused to see the woman signal to them as if asking them to stop, so Shaikh waved back to indicate they didn't want to talk, she testified. That's when the pair rushed over, shouting at them to get out and banging on the car, she said.

“I’m confused, what did we do wrong?” she recalled thinking.

At one point, she caught a glimpse of a silver chain with a "black thing" on it after the woman pulled it out of her shirt, but the woman let go of the object when she started hurrying over, she said.

Shaikh said she wondered if it was a police badge, but figured it was a fake one because it didn't look like what she had seen in the movies.

She said she briefly considered the possibility that the pair may be police, but dismissed that idea because they weren't dressed -- or behaving -- like police officers. The pair were "aggressive," dressed in casual clothes and didn't identify themselves as police, she said, and they just repeatedly shouted at them to stop and get out.

“I felt like she’s pretending to be the police so that she can stop us,” Shaikh said, adding she'd come close to being in a similar situation in Pakistan, the country where she was born and where she returned to get married in 2017.

As the two people were banging on the car, Shaikh said she saw the man reach into his pocket and thought he was getting something to break the windows.

"I’m thinking that if he does break the window, he’s going to kill us all," she said.

Court has heard Zameer was not involved in the stabbing police were investigating, but that he and his family had coincidentally walked by the victim earlier that night.

Prosecutors allege Zameer chose to make a series of manoeuvres with his vehicle while plainclothes officers were nearby, hitting Northrup and crushing the officer's body under the vehicle.

The defence, meanwhile, argues Northrup's death was an accident, and Zameer and his wife, who was eight months pregnant at the time, were scared because they did not know the people approaching them were police.

On the stand Tuesday, Shaikh said the whole thing happened so quickly and it felt like the pair banging on the car were "everywhere."

She saw her husband turn to look back out the rear window and put the car in reverse, then the car backed up at an angle, straightened out in the laneway and drove straight for the exit, she said.

They went over what felt like a speed bump and then made two right turns to go toward the garage's exit, Shaikh said.

Zameer, who had previously been largely silent, told her to call police, she said, adding she had to ask him whether to dial 911 or 999 -- the emergency number in Malaysia, where the couple lived until coming to Canada in 2019. Shaikh reached toward the back seat to get a cellphone from her son, who had previously used it to watch cartoons on YouTube, she said.

She told the court she was "shaking so bad” trying to get out of the YouTube full-screen mode to call first responders. As soon as she succeeded, their car was hit by another one, she recalled. In their rush to leave, she hadn't had time to put on her seatbelt or finish fastening her son's car seat, so she hit her head at the impact. Shaikh said.

 she looked out the window, there were two men in casual clothes holding guns -- one by her window and another by her husband's, she said.

One of the officers pulled her out of the car by the wrist and tried to force her to the ground, she said. Shaikh said she told him she was pregnant and asked to see her child, who was screaming and crying, climbing up on the car console, she said. She was able to hold her son, and told him what was happening was "just a movie," she said.

Even when the man who was with her tossed handcuffs to his partner, Shaikh said she didn't believe they were police, especially after seeing that same man punch her husband.

“To me, they’re not behaving like I thought (police should) … because we didn’t do anything,” she said.

It was only when the man went into his van and put on a police vest that she understood, Shaikh told the court. She told the officers she and her husband hadn't known they were police and that the others hadn't been wearing a vest or anything like that.

One of the cops told her husband they'd hit a police officer with their car, but Shaikh said she didn't believe it.

It was only later, replaying the scene in her head while under police surveillance at the hospital, that she thought of the bump, she said.

“I couldn’t think of anything else, that’s the only thing that happened," she said.

Shaikh said she gave a statement to police later that morning, in as much detail as she could, because she wanted them to know what happened. But she went home to discover police had told the public her husband had intentionally killed a police officer, she said.

“I felt so betrayed,” she said through tears.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024. Top Stories

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