Habiba Nosheen: The following program contains descriptions of violence. Please take care while listening.
Habiba: Previously on The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
Christine Fox: It seemed like there was lots of secrets. It always seemed like she was hiding.
Sara Hasan: We would always have to try to find her. So there were so many times when we would go looking for her.
Maria Martin: It was a white van. And there was two people. And she saw the van and she just said, "Oh my God," and then she just went flying. Like, bolted.
Mindy: Yeah, two male police officers show up. They sit on the other side of my desk. So of course, I told them too that my theory is that if she's missing, it could be Delroy. Please look into that.
Sergeant Daryl Reid: We asked Delroy all of the questions that you're probably thinking the police would ask in these scenarios, and we were satisfied with the answers that he gave us at that time.
Mindy: I'm so heartbroken on her behalf. For everything that happened to her. I need a minute.
Habiba: I spend a lot of time trying to imagine how Nuseiba must have felt in the early months of 2001. She had filed a complaint with the police against Delroy for assault. She told Mindy that while Delroy was in jail, one of Delroy's friends had beat her up and warned her that if she slipped up again her baby would be next. She must have felt like she had nowhere else to go. And even if she did want to go back with her family, Nuseiba's sister Sara Hasan told me that her dad made it clear that's not happening unless she gives up that baby born out of wedlock.
Sara Hasan: You know what? My dad did tell her, "I can't take the baby." The option was you come home and give up your child for adoption.
Sara Hasan: Because of that culture aspect. How's he gonna—you know? I think it hurt him. It hurt him.
Habiba: I imagine Nuseiba surveying her choices: stay with the man she says hits and threatens her, or return to a family she'd spent most of her life running away from. In the end, we know she went back with her family. On March 1, 2001, Nuseiba puts Yasmin up for adoption. By April, 2001, she's on a plane back to her family in Jordan. But even though Nuseiba gave up the baby, for some in her family, that didn't absolve the sin of having had premartial sex in the first place. And as you'll hear in this episode, there was one family member in particular who had strong opinions about sin and sinners.
Habiba: From Spotify and Gimlet Media, I'm Habiba Nosheen and this is The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
Habiba: The 2001 trip to Jordan ended for Nuseiba like all the others had: by late 2003, she was back in Canada. She was staying at a shelter where she met a new boyfriend. His name is Eddie Evans. When they met, Nuseiba was 23 years old and Eddie was 32. He and Museiba moved in together shortly after.
Habiba: I know from the police that Nuseiba was living with Eddie at the time she went missing, so of course I was eager to speak to him. Through court records, we tracked down an address for Eddie. For months, we had been sending him letters, emails, messaging him on Facebook. And one day, a reporter from our team decided to knock on his door. But it's not him who answers, it's someone else: a friend of Eddie's.
Kelly Bennett: Hi there.
Eddie's friend: Hello.
Kelly: My name's Kelly Bennett. I'm looking for Edward Evans.
Eddie's friend: Who are you?
Kelly: My name's Kelly Bennett.
Eddie's friend: About—okay, you are looking for Edward Evans. About what?
Kelly: I'm hoping to talk with him for—I'm a reporter. I'm hoping to talk with him for a story that I'm working on.
Eddie's friend: What sort of story is that?
Kelly: It's about a woman named Nuseiba Hasan.
Eddie's friend: Oh. I know his answer right now.
Kelly: What's that?
Eddie's friend: He doesn't want nothing to do with it.
Eddie's friend: He—yeah, his two words will be, "Fuck this shit."
Habiba: Eddie's friend was sure that Eddie wouldn't be calling us back. And he was right. But the police did talk to Eddie, and here's what they told me. They said that while Nuseiba was living with Eddie, she enrolled in Fanshawe College, about an hour away from where they were living together. She was studying travel and tourism, and she was supposed to graduate in May of 2008. But in 2006, she dropped out. By November of 2006, Nuseiba's relationship with Eddie was on the rocks. And then one day she got a call from her family asking her to come for a visit. She packed up her things and told Eddie she was moving out to go stay with her family.
Habiba: Police say Nusieba's brother came to pick her up from Eddie's to take her to the family farm. I learn later that Nuseiba's parents were out of the country, so no one would have been living there at the time. Police say that was the last time Eddie ever saw her.
Detective Peter Thom: She, according to him, left with one of her family members with her belongings.
Sergeant Daryl Reid: It was my understanding that when Nuseiba left the home the last time that he saw her, it was on the understanding that she was going off to do something with the family business and that their relationship was really not proceeding in a positive direction, and that there was no real expectation that the relationship would continue.
Habiba: So it was a breakup.
Sergeant Daryl Reid: So it's not like he was looking for her to come back in a week or two. Yeah.
Habiba: According to the police, when Eddie didn't hear from Nuseiba, he says he wasn't alarmed. He just assumed it was because things were over between them and she had moved on. As far as I can tell, the same day Nuseiba left Eddie's with her brother, her sister Sara got a call.
Sara Hasan: I don't know if it was my brother or parents told me go to the farm and see Nuseiba.
Habiba: Sara says she couldn't get there the same day, but she made sure to go see Nuseiba the very first thing next morning.
Sara Hasan: So I dropped my kids off at school. I was excited. So I went there. It was raining, it was kind of winter rain. And my brother was outside and I said, "Oh, where is she?" And he's like, "Oh, she's gone." I said, "What do you mean she's gone?" You know, I was just, like, baffled. So I went in the house thinking maybe she left something I can—you know, I looked around the house to see if she left maybe a bag or any item that I can like—and no luck. So that plays in my head. Had I gone there a day earlier, or what if, you know?
Habiba: Which brother is this?
Sara Hasan: Hasan.
Habiba: Hasan. Other people also pronounce his name "Husson" or "Hassan." He's one of Nuseiba's older brothers. Hasan Hasan is the person that police say picked Nuseiba up from Eddie's. Hasan Hasan is also the last known person to have been with Nuseiba before she seemingly fell off the face of the Earth. After that day, there is no record of anyone ever seeing Nuseiba again.
Habiba: For years, the police said nothing about Hasan and very little about what they think happened that day. But then Yasmin does something that sets wheels in motion, that brings new information to light about the police's theory of who's responsible for Nuseiba's disappearance.
Habiba: So one day I'm on the phone with Yasmin. By now it's been years since she learned that her birth mother was missing. She's also met with the Hamilton police detectives, and thinks there is no way Nuseiba is still alive. So she tells me this idea that she has.
Yasmin: I'm gonna look into getting a death certificate, basically.
Habiba: There is this little-known law in Ontario that essentially says if a person has been missing for more than seven years—even if there is no body—someone can go to court and request to have them declared dead. The court will hold a hearing, and anyone who objects because they believe that this person isn't dead would have to show up and provide evidence.
Habiba: Yasmin sees getting a death certificate as a way to declare what she and the police believe to be true: that Nuseiba is gone and she isn't coming back.
Habiba: The official act of declaring her dead, does that close a chapter for you? Does that make it, like, more real?
Yasmin: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it would actually—it would stop the what ifs.
Habiba: Do you think the family would—if they found out you were trying to have her declared ...
Yasmin: Like, what are they gonna do? Like, if—if she's still out there, look for her. Do something about it. There's no billboard signs, there's no TV advertisements. If you care about her, then actually show it, and if not, why not declare her dead?
Habiba: Yasmin starts working with lawyers to obtain this death certificate. And while putting together their application to file, Yasmin's lawyers contact the Hamilton police. They ask Detective Thom to provide a sworn affidavit about what the police think happened to Nuseiba based on their investigation. Then one day, I get a text from Yasmin.
Habiba: Hey, it's Habiba.
Yasmin: Hi, Habiba.
Habiba: Is this a good time?
Habiba: Okay, cool. I'm just recording. I just want to make sure I can—you can hear me properly too. Are you able to share his affidavit?
Yasmin: Yeah, sure.
Habiba: She just got a copy of the affidavit, and texts me because she's shocked by what's in there. It discloses the investigative theory of the Hamilton police, and it includes some things that the police haven't said publicly, things that shocked me.
Habiba: Did you text it?
Habiba: I just want to read it.
Habiba: I pull up the document on my cell phone and start reading parts of the affidavit.
Habiba: "I, Peter Thom, am a police officer with the Hamilton Police Service. I have been so for 29 years. The Hamilton Police Service commenced a missing person investigation into the whereabouts of a Nuseiba Hasan on February 15, 2015, as a result of a family member reporting that Nuseiba had not been seen since the end of 2006 or beginning of 2007. The family member reported that they had received information that another family member had intimated they had killed Nuseiba. It is the investigative theory that the most plausible explanation for Nuseiba's disappearance and ultimate death is the result of a family member or family members' action."
Habiba: This is the first time I've heard this theory from the police, that someone in Nuseiba's family was responsible for her death. And it's the first time I've heard why the police opened their investigation: it was because a family member came forward to report that someone in the Hasan family had implied that they killed Nuseiba.
Yasmin: So basically he's just saying the family member reported that they have received information that another family member had intimated that they killed Nuseiba. Investigators have interviewed family members, including the family member.
Habiba: It seems pretty strong to me.
Yasmin: I know.
Habiba: Like, that's more than I would have expected from him.
Detective Peter Thom: Major crime unit. Peter Thom speaking.
Habiba: Hi, Detective Thom. It's Habiba.
Detective Peter Thom: Hi, how are you?
Habiba: Good. How are you?
Detective Peter Thom: I'm good. I'm good.
Habiba: I decide to call Detective Thom to find out if he's willing to share the names of these family members he's referring to in the affidavit. In our conversation, Detective Thom tells me a few key details. He says Hasan told the police that he took Nuseiba to the farm and left her there, and that the next morning when he came back she was gone. And then Detective Thom says this other thing: that there are two family members who are persons of interest in the case, one alive, one dead. There's only been one immediate Hasan family member who's died since Nuseiba's disappearance, her father, Musa. But initially at least, Detective Thom wouldn't confirm the names of the family members the police considered persons of interest.
Detective Peter Thom: I've probably given you more than I should have already, but that's—that's where we're at. We have two—two persons of interest within the family, and like I say, one's deceased.
Habiba: It seems pretty clear that the dead relative is likely Nuseiba's father, Musa Hasan. And the other person of interest who's alive is her brother, Hasan.
Detective Peter Thom: I am not going to comment on that.
Habiba: I know he says he won't comment, but of course I keep asking.
Habiba: Is Hasan Hasan a person of interest in this case?
Detective Peter Thom: He's the last person that we know has—last confirmed sighting of Nuseiba was him. He's saying he dropped her off, she disappears. There are other—there is other information that has come to light that would suggest that a family member was more involved than—in her disappearance than that individual is willing to say. So from a policing perspective, and I know I'm being very cautious in my words here, he would be a person of interest.
Habiba: Person of interest. Three key words in cop speak for this: someone who may be a witness to a crime, have valuable information, or someone who may be responsible. But in the course of an investigation, a "person of interest" can be cleared or found to have no connection with the crime. And I should say neither Musa Hasan nor Hasan Hasan have ever been charged or convicted for any crimes related to Nuseiba's disappearance.
Habiba: I later learn from Detective Thom and others that Musa Hasan was not in the country at the time the police believe Nuseiba disappeared. And later I would learn that Hasan was upgraded from a person of interest to a suspect, so he's currently the only suspect in the case. Meaning that the police are now focusing on Hasan as the person thought to be responsible for Nuseiba's death. I need to learn everything I can about Hasan Hasan. That's after the break.
Habiba: Hasan Hasan is the fifth child, and the youngest son in the Hasan family. After him, there is Sara, Nuseiba and another sister, Hilwa.
Habiba: He was born in 1974, so he is in his 40s now. And these days he runs his own construction and excavation business. When I start asking around about him, I hear from people things like he's very religious, but not in a good way. So I start with the local mosque in the area. I talk to Mohammad Darr. He's one of the leaders at the Islamic Centre of Cambridge, a mosque the Hasans have a long history of attending.
Mohammed Darr: Hello?
Habiba: Hello. Salaam alaikum. This is Habiba Nosheen, I'm the journalist who was just emailing with you.
Mohammed Darr: Oh, yes. Yes. Wa alaykumu s-salam.
Habiba: Is this a good time for us to chat?
Mohammed Darr: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That's okay.
Habiba: Have you heard of Nuseiba Hasan?
Mohammed Darr: No. You are talking about our community?
Habiba: Yes. Yes. From—from your area.
Mohammed Darr: Hasan. No. I'm sorry, but no, I never heard anything. You know what—like what background she is?
Habiba: Yes, she's from Jordan.
Mohammed Darr: Jordan. Nuseiba Hasan. Hasan. Hasan. You know, is she related to Hasan Hasan?
Habiba: Yes. Yes, yes. Do you know him as well?
Mohammed Darr: Yeah. I knew his father, too.
Habiba: Yes. Yes.
Mohammed Darr: Very emotional kind of guy. Like Hasan. Hasan took on his father.
Habiba: Interesting. Okay.
Habiba: Mohammed Darr tells me how the family, including Hasan, actually helped construct the building the mosque is housed in. He tells me how generous they were with their time, and never charged the mosque for their labor. But what does he mean when he says "he's emotional?"
Mohammed Darr: Many years we are not in touch.
Habiba: Okay. Is there a reason?
Mohammed Darr: Not in touch at all. Yeah, there was a reason that, you know, he was told not to come to masjid.
Habiba: Oh, wow. Okay.
Habiba: A quick explainer: "masjid" is the Arabic word for mosque. So Mohammed is saying that Hasan was told to leave the mosque.
Mohammed Darr: Yeah, yeah. He was like—you know, he's a nice guy, okay?
Mohammed Darr: Very, very nice guy. He did lots of work here at the masjid, okay?
Mohammed Darr: But like, you know, I don't know what went wrong with them, you know? But he was—like it was like, you know, reasonably told him, you know, it was because he was getting out of control.
Habiba: Oh, how so?
Mohammed Darr: Like, you know, in the mosque, you know, he did a couple of things.
Habiba: Was he physically abusive to anybody? Like, was there a fight?
Mohammed Darr: He didn't hit anybody. It was not—but he was like, you know, just—I don't know, like, you know, he's—you know, in our community, there's some people they're fanatics. You understand?
Habiba: Okay. Yeah.
Mohammed Darr: They think they're always right and they go to the limits. You know, I'm not sure—I don't want to label him like that.
Habiba: But, you know, some people think, you know, haram, haram, haram. Everything is haram for them, right?
Habiba: Haram, haram, haram. Arabic for "Sin, sin, sin." I can't imagine what in the world could have been happening at the mosque of all places that Hasan would have dubbed as haram—sinful. And I also find myself wondering how on Earth did Hasan get banned from the mosque? I dig for more details, but it's clear Mohammed Darr isn't going to tell me.
Habiba: Was he telling other people things were haram?
Mohammed Darr: Well, no. He was mad. He was mad. And you know ...
Habiba: What did he say?
Mohammed Darr: I don't—I forgot. I forgot. I'm sorry. I don't want to say too much.
Habiba: But after digging around for a while, we track down someone else who was at the mosque on the day that Hasan got banned: the current mayor of Cambridge, Kathryn McGarry.
Kathryn McGarry: Morning, Habiba.
Habiba: Good morning. Thank you so much for letting us take up your time again. We're so grateful.
Habiba: Usually when guests visit who are non-Muslims, they're often invited to sit next to the imam out of respect. Non-Muslim female guests aren't expected to cover their heads. Some do, some don't. I learn that the incident that led to Hasan being kicked out of the mosque was during 2016 Eid prayers, so it was a pretty packed house. And Kathryn McGarry was invited as a guest, so she saw the whole thing go down.
Kathryn McGarry: We were in the men's section of the prayer rooms, and it was packed that day, so it really had a huge number of participants in the room. They had set out chairs near the microphone for their guests. So I remember sitting facing really a sea of people.
Habiba: In that crowd in front of about 1,000, Hasan started shouting that he was offended that some of the female guests did not have their heads covered.
Kathryn McGarry: We could see very clearly that the gentlemen sitting around this man were trying to stop him from speaking. He was quite belligerent with them. You could visibly see that the rest of the gentlemen in the room were very uncomfortable about what was happening, looked embarrassed. And they just kept apologizing, and that this gentleman had been trouble before for them, that he was outspoken and sometimes unruly. I believe that he was asked not to come back.
Habiba: Most of the people from the mosque I tried to speak to about Hasan didn't want to talk. But some agreed to answer my questions if I kept their names confidential. One person who grew up with Hasan and attends the Cambridge mosque described him as having a "hot temper." I also talked to another person, a very close family friend of the Hasans. And within seconds of mentioning Nuseiba's name, they say, quote, "She had a crazy brother." And they go on to say, "Hasan. I think he did something to her. A lot of us do." Then tears rolled down their face and they say, "Why are you asking about her now? It's been so many years."
Habiba: When talking to this person, Nuseiba's conflicts with her family come up. And this is actually something the affidavit also hinted at. There's this part where the police say, quote: "Nuseiba was a first-generation Canadian, and appears to have diverted from her strict Muslim upbringings. For example, having a child out of wedlock with a non-Muslim. The investigation has shown that Nuseiba's family had made previous efforts to force her to conform to their more traditional beliefs."
Habiba: When I read this part of the affidavit, I found myself thinking about a moment from when I was about 11 years old. It was the month of Ramadan, and my dad had some friends over, but everyone else in the house had gone to bed. I got up to get some water, and my dad was in the living room chatting with his friends from the mosque. And these dads were talking about a 16-year-old girl from the mosque who had been seen that day at school wearing a short skirt and making out with her white boyfriend. And one of my dad's friends says something that I will never forget. He said, "If that was my daughter, I would kill her and be on the next flight to Pakistan."
Habiba: What I always remember about that moment is that none of the other men, including my dad, spoke up to say "What the hell are you talking about?" This was just said as a matter of fact. It was sometime after that that in the back of my head I would always wonder: if I stepped out of line, would my life be at risk? Even if it wasn't, even if it had all been just talk, the fear of that was terrifying for me as a girl.
Habiba: And the same part of the affidavit landed on Yasmin like a ton of bricks. Because in it, Yasmin being born is mentioned as an example of Nuseiba stepping out of line, Nuseiba failing to conform to her family's values. And it's not spelled out, but the implication for Yasmin—and the way she feels when she reads this—is that Nuseiba might have been killed because she stepped out of line by having had this child, by having had Yasmin. That part of the affidavit cemented for Yasmin fears that she's always had, that somehow she is the reason someone harmed Nuseiba.
Habiba: One day when we were talking, I don't remember if it was on text or on the phone, you said something to me that really surprised me, and ...
Habiba: You said, "I think she's dead because of me."
Habiba: And I thought, wow. Like, to live with that, to live—as a kid, to think that—that my beginning caused someone ...
Yasmin: Yeah. Yeah. If someone did harm her, then it was definitely a big factor. Definitely.
Habiba: That you were born.
Yasmin: Yep. Honestly, I wouldn't wish this reality on my worst enemy, because it's just—it's really heavy stuff.
Habiba: It is heavy stuff. The idea that someone found Yasmin's birth so intolerable it justified Nuseiba's death. But it is just a theory, a theory that comes from the feeling she gets when she reads the police affidavit. And police investigations that lead to actual arrests are built on evidence, tangible physical evidence. That hunt for evidence took the police to the Hasan's farm back in 2016. That farm was the last place that Nuseiba was thought to be alive, and they went there to look for her body. And coming up on the next episode, I go there too.
Habiba: Wow, that's a massive property.
Habiba: That's on the next episode of The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
Angie Fazzari: It was abandoned. It was to me. And it was almost like eerie. It looked like someone was killed here.
Habiba: Conviction: The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. The show is hosted and reported by me, Habiba Nosheen.
Habiba: Additional reporting by Kelly Bennett. Our producers are Alyssa Edes, Hannah Harris Green, Chris Neary and Anya Shultz. Our supervising producer is Matthew Nelson. Our editors are Alex Blumberg, Collin Campbell and Heather Evans. Fact-checking by Kelly Bennett and Marsha McLeod. Additional field recording by Jonathan Cockburn.
Habiba: Original music, scoring, sound design and mixing by Catherine Anderson. Music supervision by Liz Fulton. Special thanks to Azmat Khan.
Habiba: If you have information about Nuseiba or this case, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at habiba.nosheen (@) gmail.com. That's H-A-B-I-B-A dot N-O-S-H-E-E-N at gmail.com.
Habiba: Thank you for listening.