The four people found dead in a Markham home Sunday are the mother, father, sister and maternal grandmother of the man now facing four first-degree murder charges, according to friends of the family.
Following autopsies, York Regional Police confirmed Wednesday the victims are: Firoza Begum, 70, Momotaz Begum, 50, Moniruz Zaman, 59, and Malesa Zaman, 21, according to a news release.
Their cause of death has not been determined and will not be released as the case is before the courts, police added.
Menhaz Zaman, 23, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder Monday after the bodies were found at a house on Castlemore Ave. Sunday afternoon. The police have not confirmed his relationship to the victims.
Police received a call just before 3 p.m. “that there might be some people injured in the residence” on Castlemore Ave., just east of Mingay Ave., police spokesman Const. Andy Pattenden said Sunday.
“When our officers arrived, they located a man at the front door, had an interaction with him and he was taken into custody,” Pattenden said.
Officers then found the four bodies inside the home, he said.
“Familicides” — where multiple family members are killed at the same time by a family member — are rare events. The most common homicide involving family members is an intimate partner homicide, most often a man killing his current or former female partner.
According to the most recent figures from Statistics Canada, there were 30 cases of alleged parricide — the killing of a parent by a son or daughter — nationally in 2018. Figures from the past decade show there are on average about two dozen such cases each year, ranging from 21 in 2010 to 34 in 2013 and 2017.
Alleged murders by a sibling are less common, with seven recorded cases in Canada in 2018, six in 2017 and a decade high of 13 in 2010 and 2011.
Statistics Canada does not specifically track cases of familicide, where a perpetrator is alleged to have killed multiple members of their own family.
The typical and most researched familicide involves a male head-of-household who kills his entire family for purported prosocial purposes after his termination from a job or after a divorce as his identity changes, according to Phillip Shon, a criminology professor at Ontario Tech University, who researches intra-family homicide and parricide (the killing of a parent or close relative). Some of these cases are murder-suicides, resulting in little information being released publicly by police in Ontario.
It is unclear how often murders are carried out by family members in the GTA, or how many parents are killed by their children. Family members excluding current or former intimate partners were charged in five murders in Toronto in 2018, according to a Star analysis. In three cases, a son or grandson was charged with the murder of a parent or grandparent. None involved multiple victims.
In some instances where a child kills a parent it is linked to rare and serious mental illness, such as in the case of Christopher Hardie, 40, who was found not criminally responsible for killing his 72-year-old mother, whom he lived with, last year.
However, there have been recent cases in the GTA that more clearly fit the “familicide” definition including when Jennifer Pan, then 24, orchestrated a plan to kill her parents in what was supposed to look like a home invasion gone wrong in their Markham home. Her mother was murdered during the 2010 attack but her father survived.
And in 2016, Brett Ryan, 35, killed his mother and two brothers using a crossbow and crossbow bolts at the family home in Scarborough.
Both Pan and Ryan had motives stemming from a long-standing conflict with their families, tied in part to webs of lies they had constructed and the potential end of romantic relationships.
This is consistent with a 2017 study from the U.S. which found that, in 16 cases involving youth between 14 and 21 who killed two or more members of their family, there was usually some kind of long-term conflict with parents.
Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the FBI, found that in almost all the cases the perpetrator was male and lived with their family in the home where the murders took place. There was usually some kind of planning or rehearsal. The apparent motives varied, but included allegations of abuse or some kind of long-term conflict. In most of the cases the perpetrator confessed and in three-quarters of the cases the perpetrator stole money after the murders.
In half of the cases the perpetrator informed someone they intended to kill their family prior to doing so. A quarter told friends afterwards what they had done.
However, the researchers found it difficult to identify risk factors because such events are so rare and because it is hard to tell which individuals will move from fantasy to action — though they noted that “leaking homicidal intent” and acquiring weapons are two obvious ones given that most of the cases they examined involved some kind of planning.
This problem was faced by members of an online gaming community that Menhaz Zaman belong to. Police have not released any information about Zaman’s motives and he has not yet had a trial — his first court appearance was on Monday.
Hours before Zaman was arrested on Sunday, forum members became increasingly concerned that Zaman was not simply being a “troll” and actually meant what he said in some disturbing messages that prompted at least one forum administrator and one member to contact authorities early Sunday morning.
In the postings, some of which have been seen by the Star, Zaman described being depressed and having lost faith in God, lying to his parents about going to university and dropping out of an engineering program after failing classes. He wrote that he had told his parents he would be graduating from university July 28, the day he was arrested and charged with murdering his parents, his grandmother and sister.
With files from Sahar Fatima
May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis