CALGARY — More details are emerging about Omar Shire Hassan, the Somali-Canadian who allegedly beheaded his four sons after recently returning to his native country.
Mr. Hassan, who is in the custody of Somali police, lived in Montreal, Toronto, the Yukon and Northern Alberta before returning to his native country 10 months ago, according to longtime friend Mohamoud Fidow.
“We were surprised when we heard it, that he [allegedly] killed his own children. We didn’t believe it. We were so surprised and shocked. He never got arrested in 25 years in Canada. He never had a problem with the law. He was a clean guy.”
Mr. Fidow, who met the 60-year-old Hassan more than two decades ago, said his friend suffered from long-standing marital problems and apparent mental illness.
Messrs. Fidow and Hassan both hail from Beledweyne, the town where Mr. Hassan allegedly killed his children more than 300 km north of Mogadishu.
Mr. Fidow told the National Post on Thursday that Mr. Hassan spent three months every year with his family. His sons were between the ages of 6 and 11.
Mr. Mohamed said Mr. Hassan and his wife suffered marital problems, made worse by Mr. Hassan’s evident mental issues. According to a report from Agence France-Presse, Mr. Hassan and Ms. Addawe divorced three years ago.
Despite initial reports, several members of Calgary’s Somali community insisted Mr. Hassan never lived there; he would periodically stay with Mr. Fidow in the city before flying out to visit his family in Kenya and, later, Somalia.
Mr. Hassan is believed to have come to Canada in the late ‘80s. He spent more than a decade in Toronto and Montreal before moving to northern Alberta to work as a taxi driver. He spent most of his time in Fort McMurray, sending money to Somalia to support his family. He spent about a year in Yellowknife, but didn’t like it, Mr. Fidow said.
‘He never had a problem with the law. He was a clean guy’
Mr. Fidow said he spoke to Mr. Hassan every weekend over the phone until 2009. That year, the friends met in Nairobi while visiting their families, but it was clear that Mr. Hassan’s marital problems were mounting. The driver said Mr. Hassan spent several weeks in the city, but didn’t visit his family, staying instead in hotels.
“We talked to him and asked: ‘Why are you staying here?’ He said he was coming here because he was stressed out and so tired. He said he didn’t sleep for a long time and that’s why,” Mr. Fidow said.
The friend said he suggested Mr. Hassan sponsor his family to immigrate to Canada, and also seek help from a doctor for his sleeping problems. But after he returned to Canada, Mr. Fidow said the troubled Mr. Hassan cut all contact.
“He changed his phone number so I couldn’t contact him by phone. I asked some Somali drivers and they would say he was still living in Fort McMurray.”
His estranged wife, Qadro Addawe, the 29-year-old mother of the four young boys, told The Canadian Press that she did not know why Mr. Hassan allegedly killed their children.
“They were born in Kenya, but they were Canadian because the father was Canadian,” she said.
Ms. Addawe said Hassan was mentally stable — “he had some health problems, but he had no mental problems” — and added her own efforts to migrate to Canada had been unsuccessful.
At the time of the homicide, according to AFP, Mr. Hassan had been living with his children in Beledweyne, while Ms. Addawe was in Mogadishu.
“The dead bodies of the four children were found near a village and have been buried. The man handed himself in and is in custody now. I think he is not mentally fit but we are questioning him,” regional police commissioner Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle told AFP.