Habiba Nosheen: A quick warning before we start the show: the following program contains descriptions of violence. Please take care while listening.
Habiba: So after our last episode of this podcast came out, I got an email. And it said, "You spoke to my father Nasser Hasan. I need to speak with you." So I called this person.
Amina Hasan: Hello?
Habiba: Hey. Good morning, Amina.
Amina Hasan: Good morning.
Habiba: How are you?
Amina Hasan: I'm good. How are you?
Habiba: Amina Hasan is Nasser's oldest daughter. Nuseiba is her aunt. Amina is 31 now. She's the niece who was berated at the mosque by her uncle Hasan Hasan. After she heard her dad Nasser tell me the story of that encounter on last week's episode, she wanted to talk to me, to tell it in her own words.
Amina Hasan: So I was 15 years old when it happened. I was about 15 years old, and at that time I was trying to remove—like, I did not want to wear the headscarf anymore. So I was kind of the rebellious one within the grandchildren. None of the other grandchildren refused to wear it. And I'm the eldest, so they kind of were mad at me why I was trying to rebel.
Amina Hasan: So I was at the mosque, and I was wearing the hijab kind of thrown on, like, loosely, so my hair was slightly showing. But still, I wore the shawl, like, thrown over my head. And we were sitting down, and my parents were at this fundraising dinner and a whole—like, there was probably around 50 people there. And then my uncle walks into the fundraising dinner hall and sees me with my hair showing, and he just flips out. Yelling, like, pointing at me, telling me I'm garbage and, like, I don't belong in the mosque. Get out of the mosque. I'm garbage. I belong in the garbage can outside. I'm trash. I'm this, I'm that. Haram, haram, you know, sin, forbidden, forbidden. And me being the 15-year-old girl, I was like, so, like, shocked, embarrassed, like, confused, hurt. Like, all the emotions ran through me, that's my family yelling at me in front of people, embarrassing me for doing what? What am I even doing wrong? Like, leave me alone.
Habiba: And I understand he also called you a whore?
Amina Hasan: He called me a whore outside of the mosque. Like, yelling from the outside. So what happened was my dad, like—and two other guys kind of got him to go outside. Like, they physically removed him slightly, kind of like—you know?
Amina Hasan: So they got him outside, but he continued to yell. And that's when he started cursing at me, and saying that I'm a whore, and telling my dad that I'm gonna come home pregnant, basically, which is like the ultimate sin and, like, I'm the devil.
Habiba: What do you think he meant when he said you're gonna come home pregnant? What do you think he was referring to?
Amina Hasan: He's comparing me to Nuseiba, of course. So ever since then, I—I stopped talking to any of them. Like, his family, my uncle, his kids. I actually stopped talking to almost an entire Hasan family after that because I just felt so betrayed and so hurt. Like, how can my own family treat me like this?
Habiba: Hmm. Thinking back, how did that day affect you?
Amina Hasan: I think that was one of the most—like, the biggest moments of my life as a young girl, because I was 15. I was just transitioning into being a woman. I didn't even really understand what a whore was. I didn't even touch a boy's hand. And I just remember thinking, like, if I'm already being called these bad names, why am I being such a good girl? Since I'm being called these bad names, you know? And then I had—like, you know, then you start dating because you're like, "Fuck it." Sorry for my language, but I'm like, if they already think I'm doing bad things, like, I'm not that bad, so I may as well.
Amina Hasan: Just live since they—and then I just—I didn't—I didn't want anything to do with the religion anymore, because I just felt like why would a religious person be so mean? If you're so religious, isn't religion supposed to be something that brings, like, peace and love, which is what we're taught?
Habiba: You're talking about your uncle Hasan?
Amina Hasan: Yeah.
Amina Hasan: The extremism of his religion, of his beliefs and his family. It was just—it was just like it made me uncomfortable, and I didn't see the same way as them. And they did not like me, and I just did not want anything to do with them. So I stayed far away, as much as I could.
Habiba: Did you ever go back to the mosque?
Amina Hasan: No, I never went back after that. That was the last time I ever went to the mosque, because I was so—I never—why would I want to go somewhere where I was attacked?
Habiba: Amin says she's heard many stories over the years, stories about how her uncle Hasan has lashed out at others as well.
Amina Hasan: I think he's had incidents in the past. Like, from what I remember my brother saying, just like making comments when they come back from the mosque like, "Oh, Hasan freaked out on this person about this," or "Hasan, like, yelled at this pers—" like, he's just like an aggressive person.
Habiba: Hmm. Why? Like, give me an example.
Amina Hasan: Like, for example, he just comes in like he—he's so, like, obnoxious, like, in your face. Like, he comes in with his big pickup truck and, like, he's very intimidating, you know? And then you add his loud voice when he speaks, and how he makes such, like, strong statements, you know? Like, he doesn't have a filter. Like, everything is—like, he has to state about everything is haram! And, like, he's just overly religious to the point where it's—like, it's not normal. That's not religion anymore. That's just extremism.
Habiba: My conversation with Amina shed a lot of light on Nuseiba's life as well. Particularly the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Nuseiba and her family, where she would try to escape, but then eventually rejoin them in some way. Amina says she can relate.
Amina Hasan: When I heard your podcast, I just felt like that's—that's kind of like who I resemble the most out of all my aunts and uncles, actually. Because, like, she's very free-spirited. I would say I'm very free-spirited as well. I'm kind of the black sheep of the family. She's the black sheep of the family. Like, she kind of ran away. I ran away, you know?
Amina Hasan: Her and I are 10 years apart, so I actually have some memories of her. And my memories of her, like, is that she was a little bit, like, odd. [laughs] Like, she was kind of weird. But I'm weird, so now I understand looking back, I'm like, "Oh, that makes sense." Like, you know, she was to herself.
Amina Hasan: Quiet compared to the rest of the family, because the rest of the family is just so loud. And she was more of the quieter sister. We just wanted to live our lives just the way we wanted to. It's not like we had any resent—like, I could hear from the stories of my aunt. And just knowing, like, how she used to come back. She used to come back to the farm and just be so gentle and kind. She was never aggressive or angry or would flip out. I never remember seeing her flip out ever. And, you know, that just reminded me so much of me, is how much I love my family, no matter what. Like, no matter how far away I go. Like Nuseiba, I always felt like I wanted to reconnect because at the end of the day, we do have so much love for each other. It's just we do have—sometimes we have just different ways and perspectives of looking at things.
Habiba: And what do you think? Do you think she's alive?
Amina Hasan: I wish she was.
Habiba: From Spotify and Gimlet Media, I'm Habiba Nosheen, and this is The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
Habiba: A lot of people in the Hasan family have different opinions about what happened to Nuseiba. There's Sara, the older sister who says Nuseiba can't be dead, so there is no suspect, and there's no murder to investigate. And then there's Nasser, the older brother who told me quote "I don't want to think nothing about what happened to Nuseiba." And then there's the family member who kicked off the investigation, who told the police that he heard that someone in the family killed Nuseiba.
Habiba: So there is no shortage of opinions, but there really isn't a whole lot of direct evidence, nothing that lets you definitively say beyond a reasonable doubt that this is what happened to Nuseiba Hasan. What we have instead is an investigative theory, laid out by the Hamilton police in an affidavit, the affidavit that I talked about in previous episodes. And now that I have this affidavit laying out this theory, I wanted to know if it would change anything for the Hasan family. And finally, I got the chance to find out.
Hilwa Hasan: Oh no, no. Please be comfortable.
Habiba: So can you introduce yourself?
Hilwa Hasan: My name is Hilwa Hasan.
Habiba: Hilwa Hasan is Nuseiba's younger sister, four years younger than Nuseiba and the youngest of all the Hasan children. I had been trying to talk to her for months, and then in the spring of 2021, she finally agreed to sit down with me for an interview.
Habiba: It is a hot day when we sit in her backyard to talk. There's another female relative with her who didn't want to be interviewed. Hilwa lives in a detached house on a quiet street in Milton, not far from where she and Nuseiba grew up.
Habiba: What—if I was to ask you, what is the one thing you remember about her? How would you answer that?
Hilwa Hasan: She would sing a lot. I remember her singing all the time, and having our friends over and just sing for us. And she loved to belly dance.
Hilwa Hasan: Yeah. [laughs] She was an amazing belly dancer, too.
Habiba: I did not know that.
Hilwa Hasan: Yeah, she would dance for, like, a long time in front of the mirror. She taught herself to dance.
Hilwa Hasan: It was amazing, yeah.
Habiba: I've told Hilwa that I want to show her an important document related to Nuseiba's disappearance.
Habiba: What I thought would be helpful is if I share a document with you and you can read it.
Habiba: I pull out the copy of the affidavit from my bag. No one in the Hasan family has seen this document or heard the investigative theory it lays out, that one or more members of Nuseiba's family were likely responsible for her disappearance and ultimate death.
Habiba: That is a summary that I think accurately represents what the police believe happened, and what the finding of their investigation is thus far. Do you want to read it?
Hilwa Hasan: Yes, please. Okay. "Subject: Declaration of Death Nuseiba Hasan. I, Peter Thom, am a police officer with the Hamilton Police Service, and can advise the following facts in relation to this ongoing investigation. The Hamilton Police Service commenced a missing person investigation into the whereabouts of 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 intimated they had killed Nuseiba. The investigation has revealed that Nuseiba has not ..."
Habiba: I watch Hilwa's eyes as she reads what the police have written: how, after 2006, there's no record of Nuseiba accessing any services. No social media posts, no use of bank accounts, no use of her passport. How Nuseiba appeared to have run afoul of her family's religious expectations by having a child out of wedlock.
Hilwa Hasan: "Investigators are confident that she met with foul play in or around the end of 2006. It is the investigation theory that the most plausible explanation for Nuseiba's disappearance and ultimate death is the result of a family member or member's action."
Hilwa Hasan: This is—I have been making prayers for her as if she's been deceased, hoping that I can talk to her. Doesn't surprise me because there's no—like, there's no way she could be alive and they can't find her. At one point, I blame myself. If I wasn't born, she would have had more attention on her. Because she really needed it, she needed the extra support.
Habiba: I'm really sorry. I don't know if you could have done anything to change the circumstances.
Hilwa Hasan: It's too late. There's no, like, "What if?" Or like—it's done. The damage is done.
Habiba: Then I tell Hilwa something the police have told me, something that's not in the affidavit.
Habiba: The detective told me that there are two people that are considered persons of interest in the case. And from the police, I understand one is alive and the other one's dead.
Hilwa Hasan: No way. Not my dad. No.
Habiba: Hilwa is making a logical leap here, because there's only one immediate family member who's died since Nuseiba disappeared—her dad, Musa Hasan. And in her mind, there is no way her dad could have anything to do with Nuseiba's disappearance.
Hilwa Hasan: If my father wanted to murder his daughter, he would have did it years ago when she had her child. No way. I know my dad. No way. My dad was crying for her before his death. Not my dad.
Hilwa Hasan: It's impossible on so many levels because if my father was capable of killing someone for their honor he would have did that to me. I—you know, I eloped and got married without his permission. I disgraced the family. He cut me off for about seven years. But yet, he got ill one year, and as soon as he got off the plane he's like, "I want to see my daughter." And I went to him. So there's no way my dad would hurt us. My dad always treated us girls better than the boys. He was very tough on the boys. He wanted them to be men. Not my dad.
Hilwa Hasan: The other person of interest. I think we—if we all had to guess, we know who we would guess, but I can't name names because I really wish they found evidence. And it's, you know, innocent until proven guilty. But there's one person that's a bit unstable, and that—for that reason, we don't talk to that person. But again, you can't accuse someone without evidence.
Habiba: The way Hilwa talks about this person in her family, it's not hard to piece together that she's talking about her brother Hasan. It's the same way people who know him, people in their extended family and people in the community have shared their suspicions with me. According to them, Hasan is a person who has struggled to control his anger, someone who's had violent outbursts around his siblings, and in particular, women in his family—even his own mother. Someone whose outbursts got him kicked out of his own mosque.
Habiba: All of this information has left people with questions over Hasan's potential involvement in Nuseiba's disappearance. These suspicions, these concerns, these rumors have rippled through the community around the Hasans. And I've heard a lot of them, even from people inside the family. But even if you're an angry person, a volatile person, a person people are terrified of, that's not proof that you're a killer.
Habiba: During our conversation, Hilwa also brings up this idea that people have speculated about in the news and on social media, that Nuseiba was the victim of a so-called honor killing. Since parts of Nuseiba's life—especially having a child out of wedlock—is considered sinful in Islam, so the theory goes maybe her family killed her because she had dishonored them, made them all look bad. Hilwa says honor killings are not justified in Islam, no matter what.
Hilwa Hasan: Even Islamically, if someone does something against your religion, you don't do that. You don't. You have no right to do that. You know? It's like any person that does a murder or a crime, you know, they're mental, they want to take justice in their own hands for any reason they might make in their head. No. The way they put it in the news, honor killing this and that, Islamically, you don't do that unless you're mentally ill yourself, you know?
Habiba: For Hilwa, even if someone in her family is a suspect in the case, what troubles her is people's perception that somehow this was something her entire family was behind.
Hilwa Hasan: We're not covering up one sibling for another. It's not the family. It's not us. It's not my father. It's not what my father would have wanted. That's on the person who did that action. It wasn't my father giving blessing, "Please clean my honor." It wasn't anything at all on those aspects. No, no, no. Like, no. Nothing to do with the family.
Habiba: And in the affidavit, Detective Thom writes the police's investigative theory is a member or members of the family might be responsible for Nuseiba's disappearance. So the police aren't saying it's everyone in the family, which makes sense because this is a family where some of the members haven't spoken to each other in years, partly because of how differently they view the world.
Habiba: In my conversation with Hilwa, I also clear up another mystery about this case: at the very beginning the police said they started looking for Nuseiba because a family member had come forward. I ask Hilwa if she knows who that was.
Hilwa Hasan: Mohammed, you know, at the end went in and reported her missing to get the ball rolling, to figure out what happened. And that's when it all started.
Habiba: That's Mohammed Hasan, one of Nuseiba's brothers.
Habiba: What prompted Mohammed to go in?
Hilwa Hasan: A mix of things. He said, she said type of thing.
Habiba: "He said, she said type of thing." Hilwa doesn't want to say more than that, but I know what she's talking about. It's a rumor that's been hanging over this story, and nailing this down has been one of the hardest parts of investigating Nuseiba's disappearance.
Habiba: I'll tell you the rumor, I've heard it from many people. But with a very big caveat: I can't prove if it's true, and nor can the police. The rumor, as people have explained it to me, is that before Nuseiba's dad Musa died, Nuseiba's brother Hasan Hasan allegedly confessed something to him—that he killed Nuseiba to save the family's honor. And this alleged confession was heard by their mother Yamenah. My understanding is it's some version of this story that her brother Mohammed heard that troubled him and prompted him to go to the police.
Habiba: But I haven't talked to anyone who can say they actually heard something like this directly from Hasan. And nor have the police. And without that, it's just a rumor, and very well could be a case of broken telephone. I ask Hilwa about these rumors.
Habiba: I also understand that one of the things that prompted reporting was that someone in the family heard the person of interest talk about the fact that he took care of Nuseiba. Did you hear that?
Hilwa Hasan: I don't think it really is relevant what anybody hears, unless it's the person themself that heard it straight from that person. Do you know what I mean?
Habiba: But—but not legally. For you, as a sister.
Hilwa Hasan: I heard something, but again, we need evidence, you know?
Habiba: "We need evidence." It's something various members of the Hasan family have told me, with what feels like an undercurrent of frustration with the police. They want the police to find proof that Nuseiba is dead and was murdered before they'll entertain what they think amounts to circumstantial evidence and rumors.
Habiba: And the police? They agree.
Detective Peter Thom: We need evidence. We need to be able to prove something.
Habiba: This again is Detective Peter Thom. And he explains that even though the police have spoken to family members who have shared the troubling things they've been hearing about what could have happened to Nuseiba, they haven't heard from anyone who says that they are a direct witness to the alleged conversation between Hasan and his father. Everyone seems to have heard it second hand, which means it's hearsay, not a valid confession. And when it comes down to it, all it amounts to is a rumor.
Habiba: It's interesting because in some ways this confession seems like an open secret. One person in fact in the community said, "Why haven't the police arrested him? Everyone knows he did it." What do you say to that when—if someone says that to you?
Detective Peter Thom: The level of proof that we need is beyond a reasonable doubt in court. And plus with there being no body. I mean, that's, like, corroboration. I've had convictions without a body, but it's a lot more difficult to prove. I don't think people appreciate how much work we—we have done on this.
Habiba: And, Detective Thom stresses, in a case like this where there is no body and the person has been missing for many years, the only evidence that will move anything forward, that will take things from the realm of theory, rumor and conjecture and move it closer to an actual answer of what happened is for someone with direct knowledge to come forward and share what they know.
Detective Peter Thom: And sometimes you have to take that step and get involved. Without witnesses, without evidence, we have no—we have no case. It's—it's as simple as that. If there is information, and it's being withheld, that's a choice.
Habiba: I've spent the last three years trying to talk to people about the disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan, trying to look into every possible option and every possible theory I could find. Maybe she was at the farm and did walk off the farm as Hasan said, and hitchhiked and was murdered. Maybe she was a victim of a random attack. Maybe. I tried to talk to as many people in the Hasan family as possible, and no one more so than Hasan Hasan himself, the last known person who the police say was with Nuseiba. We sent him letters asking to interview him for the podcast. Even my editor called and left messages.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Collin Campbell: Hi, Mr. Hasan Musa Hasan. My name is Collin Campbell, and I'm a journalist from Spotify ...]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Collin Campbell: Hello, Hasan. It's Collin Campbell again from Spotify. Please give us a call as soon as you can to speak to me, Collin Campbell, or my colleague Habiba Nosheen. Thank you very much.]
Habiba: We also sent emails. No response. And in a letter, we laid out a summary of the allegations people have raised in the podcast about him and FedExed it.
[Voicemail: Hi, good afternoon. Kim calling from FedEx in Canada.]
Habiba: I didn't hear from him, but I got this response from FedEx:
[Voicemail: I need some help on a package, a letter that the customer has refused stating he does not want. So if you could call us back and let us know.]
Habiba: I also sent several letters to Yamenah, Nuseiba's mom. No response. A message to Abdullah, Nuseiba's brother in Saudi Arabia. Nothing. Her sister in Dubai, Mariam. No response.
Habiba: And Nuseiba's brother Mohammed, the brother who first reported her missing to the police, he passed along a message. He's dealing with an illness and won't be able to participate.
Habiba: And then I got a text from Hilwa Hasan, Nuseiba's younger sister who you just heard from. I did that interview with her months before this podcast was set to air. I had assumed she'd told me everything she was willing to say, but I was wrong. This time, Hilwa had a lot more to share. That's after the break.
Habiba: After episodes of this podcast started coming out, Hilwa sent me this text: "It's only been two episodes. I appreciate you doing this even more knowing you went through something similar growing up. I feel like you're filling in some blanks. Thank you."
Habiba: I write back asking if she would agree to speak to me again on the phone to answer a few more of my questions, and she says yes.
Habiba: Habiba speaking.
Hilwa Hasan: Hi, Habiba. How are you?
Habiba: Hey, Hilwa.
Habiba: In this conversation, there was a clear change in Hilwa. She was much less guarded. I asked her again about the story that prompted her brother Mohammed to go to the police.
Habiba: My understanding is he—your dad did know before he passed away. There was some sort of a confession that Hasan did tell him.
Hilwa Hasan: Yes.
Habiba: And do you remember what your dad was like after that?
Hilwa Hasan: My dad was a—was a mess the last year, and he—yeah, he was very emotional. He tried to, you know, amend any relations in the family and be more there for everyone.
Hilwa Hasan: He was very hurt. He was very distant from Hasan the last year as well. Yeah, his relationship with Hasan was not the same that last year.
Habiba: What—what makes you suspect that that was when he told your dad? Did someone tell you later that, like, yeah, oh, yeah, that was when it happened?
Hilwa Hasan: I later found out some information about that.
Habiba: About that? Around that—that it was around that time?
Hilwa Hasan: Yes.
Habiba: Again, Hilwa did not hear the suspect in this case, her brother Hasan Hasan, say anything that would be deemed as a confession. It's all been second hand, which again only amounts to hearsay. Hilwa also told me something else. So I had heard from Nuseiba's siblings Sara and Nasser that they didn't report Nuseiba missing for nine years because they truly just assumed she didn't want to be found. Hilwa shared a more specific version of this that I hadn't heard from anyone else.
Hilwa Hasan: Do you know, Habiba, Hasan visited me. I don't know when, but I had two kids at the time. But he visited me in my apartment to drop off some gifts my brother Abdullah sent or something. It was an unexpected visit. I was like, "Oh?" And he—I remember him telling me that she—she took some cash and she wanted to leave, and she's living her life in Vancouver, you know? And she doesn't want to be met by any family. And this was, I would say 2007?
Habiba: 2007, which is shortly after the trip to the farm, the last time Nuseiba was known to be alive.
Hilwa Hasan: I was like, "Okay. So you guys know where she is." And he's like, "Yes, she's just—she's in Vancouver. She's doing her thing." And she was—you know, and he implied that she was on drugs and stuff. And I was sketched out. And then when my father died I was like, "You know, has she not heard? Where is she? What's going on?" And then I started getting cheesed, you know? And I'm like, what's going on? Like, you know, nobody—I would ask did anybody see her? Why didn't anybody—you know, I started to say, you know, what's going on? And there was no answers. There was nothing.
Habiba: Do you think they knew and they were just like, "Oh God, Hilwa, don't ask," kind of thing?
Hilwa Hasan: No! They honestly all fed into that story that she doesn't want to be found.
Hilwa Hasan: Twice she chose to leave the family and do her own thing, so, you know, you kind of ...
Hilwa Hasan: Get the trend, right? And we're not a really tight-knitted family to correspond with each other, as you can tell. So to other people it's like, you know, your sister's missing for that many years, what's wrong with you guys? But it made sense in a way, right? Given the history.
Amina Hasan: I think a lot of people really do want to believe that my aunt is just living her life.
Habiba: This again is Amina, Nuseiba's niece, who I talked to at the beginning of this episode. She echoed what Hilwa had told me, that for some in the Hasan family, it's comforting to believe that Nuseiba is out there somewhere.
Amina Hasan: They really, truly want to believe that. And I know that her own siblings want to believe that because they don't want to admit that their sister's gone. That's—like, no one wants to admit that. Personally, I understand that it looks strange, but I've spoken to my family and—not my direct family but, like, my aunts and uncles over the years, of just like, what do they—where do they think Nuseiba is? And they've genuinely—like, I feel like they have been genuine in saying like—and I'm not saying about Hasan because I haven't talked to Hasan, I'm talking to my other aunts and uncles. They really—they really just say, like, "I think she's just, like, living in her life. She's just out there. She probably changed her name." Like, that's what they think. And I'm like, "Really? That's what you think?" "Yeah, like, come on, Hasan wouldn't actually do anything like that. He's not that crazy."
Habiba: This attitude would explain the text I got from Sara after Yasmin started to pursue the death certificate, the text where Sara cursed me out and insisted that Nuseiba was still alive. She sent a similar note to Yasmin. I asked Hilwa what she made of that text.
Hilwa Hasan: Sara's in la la land, and I think she fed my mom the idea that she's out there. And my mom, I think she blocked everything else out and is believing that. But I see the hurt. I see it in my mom. She's hurt, she's torn, you know what I mean? You know, at the beginning, she was like, "He—he did this, but he has, you know, all these children, and then they're gonna be without a father." And, you know, like, God—I hope God never puts us in the shoes, you know, in any situation. So I don't know, you know what I mean? Like, Habiba, like what—I don't know. Like, I kind of get mom, but at the same time, it's like, you know, it's not OK. You're sending a message to the children that it's okay, you can get away with stuff like this. It's not okay. I think there—there's some fear from Hasan and his family.
Hilwa Hasan: Mm-hmm. Like, even with this podcast, my—my children are scared and they're like, "Mama, I want you to put video cameras around the house." They're like, "What if somebody shows up at our door or something?" I'm like, "Mama, you know, I'll put the cameras, and if anything were to happen, then we'll get restraining orders. But what else can we do beyond that?"
Habiba: It's not lost on me how frightening it has been for Hilwa to speak to me for this podcast about her family. After Yamenah, Hilwa's mother, heard about the death certificate, she was furious, and told Hilwa and her siblings not to talk to me. Because Hilwa has spoken to me at length, especially about her brother Hasan who is known to lose his temper, she's scared.
Hilwa Hasan: I'm scared for my children. I'm scared when, you know, they walk to school. You know, if I'm not home or they're playing at the park, what if somebody hurts them?
Habiba: Yeah, that's terrifying.
Hilwa Hasan: Mm-hmm. So yeah, I just—I hope nothing retaliates towards us. But since you have it on record, if anything happens to anybody in my home, it's them. Keep that record with you, Habiba.
Habiba: From what people have told me, there may be legitimate reasons to be afraid of talking about Hasan given his history of anger even if they don't think he's responsible for Nuseiba's disappearance. I asked Amina, Nuseiba's niece, about it.
Habiba: Do you think that's one of the reasons why people haven't really wanted to talk about him in any way when the rumors start to circulate that, like, he may have hurt his sister? Like, there's just like dead silence. Like, nobody wants to talk about it. Do you think it's just because they're just scared?
Amina Hasan: Yeah. Mm-hmm. A hundred percent.
Habiba: And what is it—I'm trying to figure out, what is it that they're scared about? Is it—are they scared because they actually think it happened? Or are they scared or were they always scared of him because he's—he's, you know, an intimidating personality?
Amina Hasan: I think it's because he's—he's always just been so intimidating that people, like, they don't even want to question because it's like him knowing that we're even talking about the fact that we could do some—like, that he could do something like that is so disrespectful. Like, and—you know, and for him, like, we just don't know. I feel like we're all worried about how he will react when he hears information, and—because he's—like, ee don't—like, he's so unpredictable. Like, I don't know. Like, who would predict that their uncle would come into the mosque and just start cussing at them? And I feel like he made people uncomfortable all the time.
Habiba: It took a long time for some in the Hasan family to talk to me, to share the secrets and fears that they have been carrying for so many years about their family. Even if there is healing that can come from letting go of these secrets, sometimes we hold onto them because we're afraid of hurting those we love.
Habiba: I know I approached this podcast with similar reluctance, wondering if I wanted to share the secrets of my own family. After I left home, it took me years before I could have any kind of a relationship with my dad. Both my older sibling and I ran away from home within the same year. After two of his daughters ran away, my dad was different with my younger siblings. The daily abuse I lived through stopped, and no one else had to ever run away from home for going to their prom.
Habiba: Most of my relationship with my dad became one of tolerance. We never talked about the past. I didn't see the point. I had to see him in order to visit my siblings and mom. And he needed me when his printer wasn't working or to take him to his medical appointments during his cancer treatment.
Habiba: Then, years ago, I don't know what came over me but once I sent him a link to a TV investigation I worked on for two years. The only comment that I got back from him was, "Why did you have to wear a skirt?" I never sent him anything else I worked on after that. The things that would make him proud as a dad were not things that I could give him.
Habiba: And then while working on this story, I called my mom one day and he picked up the phone and confronted me with his own question. "Why are you always so angry with me?" he asked. His question caught me off guard, and I found myself shouting on the phone in Urdu. "Because I can't imagine how you could have hurt me the way you did. I could never do that to my kids. And when I see you, I get upset just remembering that."
Habiba: I surprised myself with the bluntness of my words. "I didn't think I was that bad to you," he replied. "I was probably worse to your older sister." He's not wrong about the last part. And then he said, "I'm sorry. I was an animal."
Habiba: I struggled to breathe. "You have never apologized," I said, still shouting in Urdu. "I should have," he said.
Habiba: It took 25 years for him to say those words, words I had stopped expecting a long time ago that I would ever hear. When I hung up the phone I stayed frozen, sitting in a chair looking out the window unable to move for a while. I think about that exchange with my dad, and I wonder whether such a conversation between Nuseiba and her dad would have ever happened, where he would have apologized for insisting she give up her child. But we'll never know the answer to that because she never got the chance to find out.
Habiba: We started this show by talking about secrets, secrets that Yasmin had set out to uncover, secrets about the identity of Yasmin's birth mother, secrets around the circumstances under which Nusieba gave her up for adoption. And some of those things she desperately wanted to know are no longer a secret. For instance, the kind of relationship Nuseiba had with Delroy, the last-known place Nuseiba was seen alive, who was the last-known person to have been with before she disappeared?
Habiba: And she's learned that the police think Nuseiba's dead, and the name of the person who's a suspect in their investigation. In a couple of weeks, Yasmin is scheduled to appear before a judge to convince the court that Nuseiba is no longer alive. I talked to Yasmin about all this recently.
Habiba: I think the first time you sent that email was three years ago. Did you expect any of what has transpired in the last—could you have predicted this journey?
Yasmin: To the day it's been almost four years since I found out about Nuseiba's identity and about, like, what's happened to her, and I could not imagine that everything that's come in play would happen today.
Habiba: Was it worth it?
Yasmin: Yeah. I don't regret anything. All of the searching that I've done, I don't regret it at all. Not by a long shot.
Habiba: But it's been a lot for you.
Habiba: Given that there is no physical evidence, do you think this case will ever be solved?
Yasmin: I will always hold on to the hope that someone that the murderer confessed to will go to the police and say this person admitted to killing Nuseiba. But for now, no one seems to want to do the right thing.
Habiba: If there's someone listening to this who knows what happened to Nuseiba and they're scared to come forward, what would you say to them?
Yasmin: Please do the right thing by my mother. I'm begging you, please do the right thing by her. That's all I can say. Please just imagine yourself in my shoes. Please put yourself in my shoes. [crying] I will never be able to thank Nuseiba for giving me the chance of a life. I will never be able to hug her. I'll never get to meet Nuseiba and tell her that I turned out okay, and that I don't resent her for giving me up. I'll never have that chance because she's gone. And someone took her away from me. Please do the right thing. Yeah.
Habiba: If the judge agrees and Yasmin does receive a death certificate for Nuseiba, her plan is to hold a memorial. It's one small thing she can do to honor her mother's life. And she hopes that one day, someone will call the Hamilton police to share the secrets that they have been keeping, that could finally answer the question of how that life ended.
Habiba: My name is Habiba Nosheen. Thank you for listening to The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan. This is our last episode, but I'm continuing to report on this story, and if we have news for you we'll put out another episode. And in the meantime, 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: 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. Additional editing by Nazanin Rafsanjani. Fact-checking by Kelly Bennett and Marsha McLeod.
Habiba: Original music, scoring, sound design and mixing by Catherine Anderson. Music supervision by Liz Fulton. Thanks to all the sources who trusted me to tell this story. Special thanks to Lydia Polgreen, Iris Fischer, Natalie Russel, Whitney Potter, Rachel Strom, Azmat Khan, and to the people in my life: Amar, Sahil, Sophie and others who gave me the strength to revisit my own past.
Habiba: Thank you to all the people who've been writing in since the podcast started airing with tips and leads that I will continue to follow. And thank you for listening to Nuseiba's story.