Habiba Nosheen: A quick warning before we start the show: this program contains descriptions of violence. Please take care while listening.
Habiba: Previously on The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
Eddie's friend: His two words will be "Fuck this shit."
Sara Hasan: 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?"
Habiba: Which brother is this?
Sara Hasan: Hasan?
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 you said, "I think she's dead because of me."
Yasmin: Yeah. If someone did harm her, then it was definitely a big factor. Definitely. Honestly, I wouldn't wish this reality on my worst enemy.
Reporter: So you're looking for a body?
Detective Peter Thom: We are looking for evidence. And a body would be one thing. We believe that Nuseiba has met with foul play. And as this was the last place she was known to be alive, it's a good starting point for us.
Habiba: This is the moment we started the podcast with: Detective Peter Thom speaking to reporters back in the fall of 2016 about a search he was leading on a 55-acre farm. The farm once belonged to the Hasan family, and the police were pulling out all the stops searching for any signs of Nuseiba.
Detective Peter Thom: Cadaver dogs. And I'm going to have the drone flying over as well. We also have today a forensic anthropologist helping our ground search team identify areas that may be relevant to the investigation.
Habiba: The very last time Nuseiba left the apartment she shared with her boyfriend Eddie Evans, the police say she was headed to this farm.
[GPS: In 600 meters, turn left onto Concession 8 West.]
Habiba: And on a beautiful spring day over a decade later, I get in my car and drive there myself to find out what the police were looking for, and what—if anything—they found.
Habiba: From Spotify and Gimlet Media, I'm Habiba Nosheen, and this is The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
[GPS: Your destination is on the right.]
Habiba: Wow, that's a massive property. It's huge!
Habiba: Hi! Hello! This is it, eh? Well, thank you so much for letting us take up your time on your beautiful property.
Habiba: My producer and I are on the front porch talking to the current owners of the farm, Joel and Angie Fazzari. The farm had belonged to the Hasans. They'd bought it in 2006 and owned it for 10 years. Joel knew the area because his parents own a farm just down the street. And when he heard that the Hasans were putting their property up for sale, he and Angie bought it. They had hoped to build their dream home here, but they had no idea that they were about to find themselves smack in the middle of a possible murder investigation. Because just days after Joel and Angie closed on their property, they got a surprising call from the police.
Joel Fazzari: I closed the sale on a Friday.
Joel Fazzari: They called me on the Monday.
Joel Fazzari: And said, "We've been watching your property. Can't talk about it on the phone. We have to talk to you face to face."
Habiba: The fact that the police went to Joel and Angie just days after they bought the property, it probably wasn't a coincidence. The police likely didn't have enough evidence to get a warrant to let them onto the farm property, so they waited until the sale in hopes of convincing the new owners to let the police search without a warrant. And the Fazzaris agreed. Today, there's a modern house on a large property with a picturesque landscape. But when they first bought the place, when the police did the search, Angie says it looked a lot different.
Habiba: Did it look like somebody was living there, though, with the condition of the house inside?
Angie Fazzari: The house was not lived in. It didn't look like it could be lived in. The kitchen—like, it looked like they had updated the countertop—it was granite. But it was, like, sawed in half. And, like, cupboards were taken off in the kitchen, tiles were, like, coming up on the floors. When you walked around upstairs, it felt like the floor was gonna fall through. It was abandoned, it looked to me. And it was almost, like, eerie. It looked like someone was killed here. Like, it was just really creepy. I did not want to buy the place at all. But he fixed it all up. Like, it looks totally different now. Like, even the grass was all overgrown. You couldn't even see the driveway. The barns were so spooky, you could film, like, a horror movie in there.
Joel Fazzari: What do you guys want to see next?
Habiba: I don't know. You tell me.
Joel Fazzari: Do you want to go back there? Do you want to go for a walk?
Joel Fazzari: Or do you guys want to drive in an Argo?
Habiba: Ooh, that sounds like fun.
Joel Fazzari: Yeah, it's faster.
Habiba: I jump on the ATV as Joel speeds up. Joel seems to be in his element, driving through the place with ease. Meanwhile, I have one hand gripping the handle of the door tightly, and the hand is holding the mic, just hoping I don't fall out of Joel's ATV and embarrass myself.
Habiba: We are now in the woods, surrounded by tall and skinny trees, 10 acres of wilderness. If something did happen here, would anyone have even noticed?
Habiba: If there was, say, a gunshot, anywhere on this property, would your neighbors not hear it?
Joel Fazzari: Gunshots are pretty common around here.
Angie Fazzari: It's very common.
Joel Fazzari: Everybody uses target practice. You can shoot a gun ...
Angie Fazzari: There's a lot of hunting that goes on around here.
Joel Fazzari: Yeah.
Habiba: Oh, okay.
Joel Fazzari: So a gunshot in this area, it's common.
Angie Fazzari: Yeah, we hear them all the time, so it wouldn't be like, "Oh, I gotta call the police, I heard a gunshot."
Habiba: Next, Joel takes me to a place behind the house and the barns, to an area that was of particular interest to the police.
Habiba: So what were they doing with this location?
Joel Fazzari: They had it all dug up, and they were looking for clues here.
Habiba: Joel is pointing to a large dirt hole in an area otherwise surrounded by grass. It's about the size of a swimming pool. The police had actually told me about this spot because at the time of the search, they noticed that the ground there had been dug up. Police say the Hasans told them that they were trying to build a pond. But that explanation seemed off. Here's Detective Peter Thom:
Detective Peter Thom: It was not in a location that you would think would be a natural place to have a pond. It had no real reason to be there, and it was in an area far away from the house, far away from neighboring properties. It just seemed an odd location.
Habiba: So the police brought in their equipment and went to work.
Joel Fazzari: They re-dug up the fresh ground—the ground, I guess.
Joel Fazzari: And they searched it. They didn't find nothing.
Habiba: The police seem to have been very hopeful that this search was going to crack the case open. More than 40 officers turned this farm upside down with the help of ground-penetrating radar, cadaver dogs and a forensic anthropologist.
Detective Peter Thom: It was a very thorough investigation. It took five—five days, and at the end of it there was no indication of a body being there.
Habiba: At the end of their five-day-long search the police found nothing. No body, no clues. They came up totally empty. And when it was all said and done, all anyone got at the end was a police mug. That's what the police gave Joel and Angie for letting them search their new home for a dead body.
Habiba: Over the years, was there ever a moment that even after the search, you thought, "Oh my God." That if you ever saw something that looked suspicious to you, did you ever wonder could this be something?
Joel Fazzari: It's been a thought. But yeah, I wouldn't say it didn't cross my mind. [laughs]
Habiba: Like what? Can you give me an example?
Joel Fazzari: Maybe I was digging a tree one day and I found something. I don't know.
Joel Fazzari: I would report it, right?
Angie Fazzari: He has done work all over this property, like making ATV trails in the forest and cutting down trees here and out there. So he's probably been like, "Oh, what if I find something out here?" But we haven't found anything. Yeah.
Habiba: There's a very important reason the police were so focused on searching for a body, and that's because there are only a handful of murder cases in Canada that have been successful in getting a conviction where the police don't have a body.
Detective Peter Thom: It is challenging, yes. Without confirmation, it's—it's hard to prove in court that an individual has met with foul play if the body's not discovered.
Habiba: When the farm search didn't turn up a body, it was clearly a huge blow to the case. The thing is, I get the feeling the police don't really know of the next obvious place to search. Once unprompted, Detective Thom made an offhand remark to me. He suggested Nuseiba could be buried anywhere, maybe even near a cell tower in Sudbury. At that time, I didn't fully understand the significance of that remark. That was before I had learned about Hasan Hasan, Nuseiba's older brother, who we talked about in the last episode.
Habiba: The police's investigation found that he was the last known person to see her alive. Their investigative theory suggests he's involved in her disappearance. Hasan Hasan had gone into the family construction and excavation business, and did a lot of work installing cell phone towers around the province. Here's Detective Thom:
Detective Peter Thom: If we're talking possibilities and hypotheticals, our understanding is that some of the family business, it's—it's traveled throughout Ontario to conduct that business. I understand that some of the family members may be involved in construction of cell tower sites and that type of thing, and have traveled throughout the province to do so. So if you're looking hypothetically at possibilities, I mean, that is something that we have to be aware of as well.
Habiba: If the police don't have a body, all they can do is explore these hypotheticals and possibilities, to try to build their case by talking to people, talking to the family at the center of this mystery. And coming up after the break, that's what I do.
Habiba: I had been trying to speak to different members of Nuseiba's family, but seemed to be hitting dead ends. Then one day I called Sara Hasan, who had done an interview with me. She's the sister who seemed convinced that Nuseiba is alive and out there. And I laid it out for her: your sister is missing, and no one in your family is returning my calls. If I'm not able to speak to anyone, I tell her, I would have no choice but to say that in the podcast. I also tell her that it's hard not to feel like there's something everyone is hiding, and that's why they aren't returning my calls.
Habiba: "I'll see what I can do," she says. Then 20 minutes later, my phone rings and it's Nasser, Nuseiba's eldest brother, the brother I had been trying to reach for months.
Habiba: He's 12 years older than Nuseiba, and the oldest of eight siblings, and graduated from one of the top universities in Canada in engineering. The day he called me, he was at work.
Nasser Hasan: I'm on a job site, I'm dumping at a random bridge in Kitchener.
Habiba: Is there a time we can have a conversation on the phone where you're in a quiet place?
Nasser Hasan: Isn't this quiet enough? [laughs]
Habiba: Just a note: the phone quality isn't so great, so it's hard to hear him at times. And I should say this conversation happened a few weeks before I read that affidavit from Detective Thom that outlines the police investigative theory that a family member or members were behind Nuseiba's disappearance. Nasser wouldn't commit to meeting in person or scheduling a time to talk when he was in a quieter place. I had the feeling this would be my only chance to speak to him, so I jump right into it and asked Nasser about Nuseiba.
Nasser Hasan: She was a brilliant, brilliant young lady. Smart cookie. She was a genius, that Nuseiba. Very smart girl. In school-wise, I mean.
Nasser Hasan: She turned away. [sighs]
Habiba: So when was the last—so when did you notice that she was actually missing?
Nasser Hasan: It never came to my mind she was missing. I thought she was living her life somewhere away. I don't know. She was up and down, up and down. I did not know. I gave up. I thought she was in Hamil—women's shelter or she's living in the streets. I don't know what was going on. I know she has a daughter and they gave it up for adoption because she was not worthy of being a mother sort of thing.
Habiba: Do you think she wasn't worthy of being a mother?
Nasser Hasan: No, because she wasn't stable! She doesn't know what she's doing! I don't know if she was on drugs, I don't know what ...
Habiba: There's no indication she was on any drugs, that—yeah.
Nasser Hasan: I hope not. I just don't know.
Habiba: So, you know, what's confusing is if somebody goes missing, say if my sister went missing or the police told me that my sister had gone missing, I suspect that I would probably, like, stand on the street and hold a sign that says "My sister's gone missing. I'm gonna find her." There doesn't seem to be any of that happening. Can you help me understand why?
Nasser Hasan: All I know is that the police were involved from the beginning, so ...
Habiba: No, they got involved nine years later. So they got involved in 2015.
Nasser Hasan: 2015?
Habiba: Yes. That's when somebody from your family came forward to report her missing. And the last time she was seen is in the family farm in 2006. So nine years go by and nobody heard from her. What do you make of that?
Nasser Hasan: I don't understand that then. So you're telling me from 2000—2006 to 2015.
Nasser Hasan: Nine years.
Habiba: Mm-hmm. Nasser, this is not something that's new. I mean, it's—it's actually been reported already that—that she was missing for nine years before somebody reported her missing.
Nasser Hasan: All I can say is in my mind, she's been—she's been missing for—ever since she's—she left after she came back from Jordan and she went back to Hamilton, roamed the streets or whatever. And I came back, and I was busy with my own life, and so in my mind, she was always missing. Like, it was never—it's not like I knew where she was down at the—on a [inaudible] where she was, or what she was doing. Nothing.
Habiba: I'm still having a hard time understanding why nobody's looking for her. The only—like, is it because everybody already knows what happened to her? Is that why nobody's looking for her?
Nasser Hasan: No. We don't know. I don't know.
Habiba: If your child was missing, would you act the same way?
Nasser Hasan: Yes.
Nasser Hasan: No. No, I would not. I'd be—I'd be looking for her. Looking and looking.
Habiba: Yes. Nasser, when—when you talk to your family, and you guys are sitting around trying to figure out, you know, what happened to Nuseiba, what do you guys talk about?
Nasser Hasan: You know what?
Nasser Hasan: Ever since the police didn't find nothing, zero, nothing was brought up about Nuseiba. Nothing!
Habiba: You guys just never talked about her?
Nasser Hasan: No, we just never talk about her. Because it was—we got busy.
Habiba: Okay, but ...
Nasser Hasan: And then ...
Habiba: [laughs] Is it weird that it sounds strange to me? [laughs]
Nasser Hasan: Yeah. You know what?
Nasser Hasan: It's not like I have one sibling, I have seven other siblings, you know what I mean? You have to understand if it was just the one, then I'd be going crazy. You're right. And that's what it is, it's sheer numbers.
Habiba: Do you think about her often?
Nasser Hasan: No, I think about her once in a while. Not often, no. Because then I got busy with my own life, and everything else and I'd just go crazy.
Habiba: So when you think about Nuseiba, even if it's once in a while, what do you think about?
Nasser Hasan: Not much. Can you hold on a sec, please?
Habiba: Yeah, sure.
Nasser Hasan: Okay.
Habiba: Nasser puts the phone down and starts talking to someone. He doesn't come back for more than 15 minutes as I wait on the line.
Nasser Hasan: Hello?
Nasser Hasan: Okay, I forgot you're still on the line [laughs]
Habiba: So Nasser, the police, you know, have—have classified this as a suspicious homicide. Like, they believe she's dead.
Nasser Hasan: Yeah, but they believe. What—okay, the question—okay, they can believe whatever they want, but where's the proof? Like, what—they gotta have some evidence. Then fine, let's do it.
Habiba: But what do you—what do you think of that? If somebody's saying that your—your sister's dead, what do you—how does that feel for you?
Nasser Hasan: It doesn't—because there's no proof, I don't feel nothing. I can't be positive.
Habiba: It's your sister! I mean, somebody's saying—the police are saying we suspect that she's dead, you know?
Nasser Hasan: Well, that's what I'm saying. I'd like the police to show me evidence, then I can—then if I believe it, then I'll say "Okay, she's died." But right now I don't think she's dead. I don't know.
Habiba: What do you think happened to her?
Nasser Hasan: I don't want to think nothing. I don't know. Zero.
Habiba: I bring up Nasser's younger brother Hasan, the brother who the leader at the mosque in the last episode described as seeing "haram" or sin everywhere. The brother who says he brought Nuseiba to the farm where the police later searched for her body, and the brother who was the last known person to see her alive.
Habiba: So I've spoken to as many people as I can, and there's also, you know, the theory that perhaps your brother Hasan had something to do with it.
Nasser Hasan: Well, we know he's a hothead, but we—this guy can't harm a chicken, this guy. It's just bak buk buk buk bullshit.
Habiba: It's hard to hear Nasser there, but basically he says this guy's a hothead, but he couldn't harm a chicken. It's all buk buk buk bullshit.
Habiba: What was Hasan like growing up?
Nasser Hasan: So Hasan? Yeah, simple, hard working. Didn't like school. Hasan was never any good in school.
Nasser Hasan: He was bigger than all of us. He was the biggest one.
Nasser Hasan: He had the height. Physically, he was bigger, yeah.
Nasser Hasan: I think he was around 6'3" or 6'2".
Habiba: Nasser, the other thing that people have talked a lot about is Hasan's temper.
Nasser Hasan: Yeah.
Habiba: Is it—do you have any thoughts on that?
Nasser Hasan: Yeah, he does have a temper.
Habiba: Nasser tells me that he hasn't spoken to his brother for years, because Hasan hit their mother.
Habiba: Wait, he—he hit your mom?
Nasser Hasan: Yeah, he pushed her down, that monkey.
Habiba: Oh, wow. Wow!
Nasser Hasan: That's why we never talk to that stupid guy.
Habiba: Nasser says Hasan was angry about his inheritance. The family didn't agree with what he says he was entitled to, so in 2016 Hasan showed up at the school the family owns in Jordan where his mother was working and pushed her.
Nasser Hasan: So he went in there, smashed the school furniture.
Habiba: Oh, wow!
Nasser Hasan: Him and his boys. Yeah. And apparently, he was put in jail over there.
Habiba: Oh my God!
Nasser Hasan: I don't know if he ever told you that. He was put in jail.
Habiba: Later, I try to run it down. In September of 2016, it does appear that Yameneh, Nuseiba's mom, filed a police complaint against Hasan in Jordan over the destruction of school property. But I couldn't independently confirm that the complaint included him pushing his mom, or if the complaint resulted in him going to jail.
Habiba: Our reporter in Jordan couldn't find any indication that he was ever charged or convicted in relation to this. I also found a lawsuit in Jordan where Hasan is suing his mother and all his siblings over inheritance, a legal fight that seems to have dragged on for years and isn't over yet.
Habiba: Nasser readily offers up stories about Hasan's temper and their disagreements. It was almost as if he wanted me to know they were different. And then he shares another story.
Nasser Hasan: So this—you brought up something. My stupid—my own brother, in the parking lot of the mosque—sometimes he's so stupid. He told—he said [inaudible] to my daughter, "Put the scarf on" or something. He said something—harsh words like "whore," he called my daughter. In a parking lot. And I did not do nothing.
Habiba: I know it's a little hard to hear Nasser's voice there. What he says is that once Nasser was in the parking lot of the mosque, and his daughter didn't seem to have her head covered with a scarf, and Hasan called her a whore.
Habiba: How old was your daughter?
Nasser Hasan: 12 years old. Or 14. I can't remember now. Shit.
Habiba: So when he called your daughter, a 12 year old, a whore in front of you, do you—like, how do you keep it together?
Nasser Hasan: All I can say is if anybody in their right mind would do that? No. [laughs] That's how I look at it. It's stupid. But I know my wife was upset. I was like, "What?" Well, the guy's mental. Let it go."
Habiba: So you're telling me that he—he says this over, you know, a 12 year old not wearing a hijab, and I can't imagine how Nuseiba's life would have fit into his world in a way that makes sense for him. Like, I can imagine that would have been very hard for him to know that she's lived the life that she had lived. Did he express ever not being happy with Nuseiba's lifestyle?
Nasser Hasan: Of course he's not—he wasn't happy.
Nasser Hasan: Nobody was happy! Nobody!
Habiba: The question I keep asking myself, and the question I find myself putting to Nasser is this: was anyone in the Hasan family so unhappy about Nuseiba's lifestyle that they could have harmed her? I ask him about some of the suspicion people were raising. I want to give Nasser a chance to respond to some of the things that I'd heard about his brother Hasan.
Habiba: You know, one of the things that I've heard is that he may have been responsible for her death. What do you make of that?
Nasser Hasan: I don't know. I heard that too, but I don't know what to say.
Habiba: Is there a chance that that's poss—is there any universe that that's possible in?
Nasser Hasan: Anything is possible. Anything!
Habiba: I mean, he was the last person at the farm with her.
Nasser Hasan: I—to be honest with you, I don't know who was the last person.
Habiba: Is it a possibility that your brother could have hurt her?
Nasser Hasan: Could have. I'm not—could have.
Habiba: Sorry, I didn't hear you. What?
Nasser Hasan: I don't know how to answer that. Could have.
Nasser Hasan: Could have. Could he have gone to the moon? Ah, pshaw. He can say whatever he wants. I don't know. Could have.
Habiba: This would be the first and only time Nasser spoke to me. After that, all my calls and messages to him went unreturned. And it's around this time Yasmin started the process of trying to seek the death certificate to have Nuseiba declared dead—the very thing that led to that revelatory affidavit that laid out the police's investigative theory.
Habiba: Before Yasmin could submit her application for this death certificate, her lawyer tried to reach all of Nuseiba's siblings and mother to serve them with a notice of her intention to file. Now I should point out Yasmin was the one seeking this death certificate. As a journalist, I don't have any legal standing to request something like that. But I guess since it's around the same time I showed up asking questions about Nuseiba, some in the Hasan family got angry at me, and that's when I received a message.
Habiba: Okay, it's March 23, and here is a text that I just got from Sara. I believe she was informed today by lawyers who were working on behalf of [bleep] to seek a death certificate, and she responded by sending this message to me: "Fuck you. I just got a call from a lawyer wanting a death certificate for my sister. Fuck you and [bleep], you evil bitches. My sister is not dead, you fucking bitch."
Habiba: That was the very last time I heard from Sara. For a while, I couldn't get anyone in the family to talk to me. But now things were a little different because I had the police affidavit, the explosive document that outlines the police's investigative theory that a family member or members were responsible for Nuseiba's disappearance. And with this document in hand, I finally talked to another member of the Hasan family. This conversation turned out to be far more unguarded and candid than I could have ever imagined.
Hilwa Hasan: 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: Do you think the person responsible for her disappearance has gotten away with murder?
Detective Peter Thom: I believe from what we know that she's dead. And something nefarious has happened to her. And that the person that was responsible for that is currently living out there in the community as a free person.
Habiba: That's on the next episode of The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan.
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. 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.