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Quebec coroner calls for more domestic violence resources after murder of family

Dahia Khellaf (Facebook) Dahia Khellaf (Facebook)

Warning: This story contains graphic details about domestic violence. 

A Quebec coroner is calling on the provincial government to improve services for domestic violence victims in her report on a murder case involving a man who strangled his wife and two sons in 2019.

Coroner Andree Kronström said the relationship between Dahia Khellaf and Nabil Yssaad was marked by an escalating pattern of domestic violence since the two were joined in an arranged marriage in 2012.

"In entering into the intimacy of the couple, I understood that, from the moment of marriage, violence set in and increased," the coroner wrote.

The report examined the killings of Khellaf, 42, and her sons, Adam, 4, and Aksil, 2, as well as the Dec. 10, 2019, suicide of Yssaad, who strangled his family in their Montreal home before driving to a hospital and jumping to his death from a sixth-floor window.

Five days before the killings, Quebec prosecutors dropped four charges against Yssaad -- including assaulting and threatening Khellaf -- after he agreed to sign a peace bond. The bond barred Yssaad from contacting Khellaf or being within 100 metres of her house.

The couple had separated at the time of the killing and Khellaf was in the process of divorcing her husband.

Kronström said elements of the family's story can be found in reports of domestic violence experts who testified during the coroner's inquest that took place last fall.

The report found Yssaad began insulting and humiliating his wife soon after he arrived in Canada from Algeria in 2014. The couple had two children, born in 2015 and 2017. Khellaf first sought counselling in 2016, and again in 2018 after the abuse escalated into a physical assault, in which Yssaad violently pinned his wife to the ground and threatened to kill her.

While Khellaf filed a police complaint in August 2018 outlining two separate allegations of assault and threats, she told prosecutors from the beginning her main goal was for her husband to get psychological help as she was convinced he was schizophrenic.

Yssaad underwent a psychological evaluation that found "no active mental illness, no danger of suicide" and was released on the condition that he not contact his wife.

An assistant chief prosecutor for the province told the hearings last year that a peace bond was used in December 2019 because Khellaf refused to testify, leaving the Crown without their main witness.

The coroner said that despite the many improvements in available services since 2019, more support, co-ordination and education is needed, especially regarding family murder-suicides.

The bodies of a woman and two young children were found in a home in Montreal’s east end Pointe-aux-Trembles neighbourhood.

Her recommendations to the province include moving forward with an assessment process for violent spouses, and increasing education for new immigrants and young people on domestic violence and coercive control.

The coroner concluded that Khellaf wasn't educated on the subject of domestic violence and control, and that her husband's risk of violence had not been properly evaluated. Citing a committee of experts who produced a report into the factors leading to domestic violence in 2019, she noted that it can be hard for victims such as Khellaf to sever ties with aggressors, especially when children are involved. She also suggested perpetrators need more resources.


"Even if the victims are at the heart of the concerns, the committee does not want to ignore the perpetrators of violence," the coroner wrote. "In order to sustainably stem domestic violence, it is necessary to develop a range of quality services for abusive individuals in a preventive manner."

An expert cited in the coroner's report said family homicides can be hard to foresee because victims are often ashamed to speak out about the abuse they're experiencing. Psychologist Suzanne Leveillee testified that Yssaad showed signs of a narcissistic personality, which is one of the warning signs for family homicides.


A small collection of toys has appeared on the lawn of a Montreal family found dead in their east end home.

She found that killing his estranged wife and children was his way of exerting "ultimate control" over his family, according to the report.

"By placing his family in the same bed after the murders, he wanted to say that they would be together forever and it was his ultimate decision and (him) taking control," the coroner wrote. "There's no doubt, according to the expert, that he planned his act."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 12, 2024. Top Stories


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