The Rafay and Burns Case (Canada – USA)

Burns and RafaySource : Rafay-Burns Appeal
May 16th, 2015

In May of 2004, Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were convicted of the July 1994 murder of Rafay’s parents, Tariq and Sultana, and his sister, Basma. At the time of the murders, the Rafay family had recently immigrated to Bellevue, Washington from Vancouver, B.C.

Their 18-year-old son, Atif, had been away for his freshman year at Cornell University and was visiting his parents in Bellevue with his high school friend, Sebastian. On the night of Tuesday, July 12, 1994, Atif and Sebastian took the Rafay family car and went out to dinner, a movie, and a night club. Their presence at each of these locations was confirmed by employees and other witnesses. When the two boys returned to the Rafay home around 2AM on July 13, they found Rafay’s mother and father had been bludgeoned to death. Rafay’s sister had also been attacked and, though still alive, would die in the hospital later that morning.  Sebastian made a 911 call and the two boys cooperated fully with the Bellevue police. They provided the officers with their clothing and submitted to an alternative light source test that is able to detect any traces of blood, but no evidence of blood was found on them anywhere. The boys were questioned, with no legal counsel present, first at the Bellevue Police Department and later at a Bellevue motel the police arranged for the boys. On July 14, the boys provided detectives with videotaped statements. On July 15, the Canadian consulate obtained permission from the Bellevue Police to return the boys to their families in Canada. The boys were not informed that a funeral for Atif’s parents and sister would occur that day, and media coverage later presented this as a cold-hearted act of fleeing across the border with no thought for the funeral.  In the days following the murders the Bellevue Police Department received three tips through other law enforcement agencies: one from Constable Gelinas with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), one from an FBI informant, and one from the Intelligence Division of the Seattle Police. The confidential RCMP informant told Constable Gelinas of a man who had been offered a $20,000 contract to kill an East Indian family that had previously lived in Vancouver, Canada and had moved to Bellevue, Washington. The informant also told Gelinas that he heard this information two days before the murders were committed. Officer Gelinas contacted Bellevue investigators Robert Thompson and Jeff Gomes—the lead investigators on the Rafay murders—and communicated the information to them. The Bellevue investigators traveled to Vancouver and knocked on this man’s door twice. He was either not home or was not answering the door. The Bellevue Police returned to the United States without making contact. About five days after the homicides, the Bellevue Police Department received a call from the FBI advising that one of their informants was coming to provide information about the murder of the Rafay family. The FBI Informant told Detective Gomes of the Bellevue Police that a militant Islamic faction said that Dr. Tariq Rafay should die because of his beliefs and teachings about the Koran. The FBI informant also said that several days after the homicides a member of this militant Islamic faction came to his house and was worried that the FBI informant had seen a baseball bat that he and some other men were carrying around in their car. Because of this, the FBI Informant believed the murder weapon was a baseball bat, which in fact it was. With this information, the Bellevue investigators learned that the FBI informant knew the identity of the murder weapon before this information was made public. The informant provided names, addresses, and phone numbers to the police. However, Bellevue investigators never followed up on these leads. The Seattle Police Intelligence Division called the Bellevue Police Department and told them they had information that al-Fuqra, a radical and militant organization, that may have been involved in these homicides. However, the Bellevue police did not follow up on this information either. They did not question any members of the Islamic community in Bellevue to find out if Dr. Rafay had conflicts with Muslims in the area.  In January of 1995, the RCMP met with Bellevue police and decided to initiate an ethically murky sting operation to elicit confessions from Sebastian and Atif. The RCMP have long practiced an undercover technique known as Mr. Big, in which suspects are recruited to take part in fictitious criminal activities on behalf of a fictitious crime boss called Mr. Big. Through these activities, undercover RCMP officers build trust with the suspects until confessions to unsolved crimes are elicited. Both the ethics of Mr. Big tactics and the veracity of resulting evidence have long been under scrutiny, as such tactics are illegal in most countries. The RCMP undercover officers first lured Sebastian into participating in fictitious criminal activity in April of 1995, with the promise of money. They continued to develop a relationship with him in the months that followed. In doing so, they took advantage of the immaturity of a teenage boy, making the 19-year-old Sebastian feel important and trusted. Eventually, Atif and another friend, Jimmy Miyoshi, were also lured in. The RCMP undercover officers convinced the boys that they could make all suspicions the Bellevue Police had concerning the boys’ involvement in the murder disappear if only Sebastian and Atif would prove they were trustworthy by giving a videotaped confession to the murders. The two teenage boys, feeling intimidated by these older adult “criminals”, complied. Although such tactics are illegal in the United States, Washington courts later allowed jurors to view these videotaped confessions. Jimmy Miyoshi, who did not give a video confession, would later be granted immunity from his charge of conspiracy to commit murder in return for statements incriminating Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay.  In July of 1995, Sebastian and Atif were incarcerated in maximum security pre-trial facilities in Vancouver, where they would remain for the next six years. In March of 2001, Sebastian and Atif were extradited to the United States. They were convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in May of 2004. The decision was appealed in 2011, but the appeal request was struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court.  In July 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that there are limitations on admissibility of evidence obtained through Mr. Big operations. As a result, several convictions from the past several decades may now be eligible for appeal, including the Rafay-Burns case. In October 2014, a new appeal was filed for the Rafay-Burns case.

A Horrible Discovery

At dusk on July 12, 1994, Dr. Tariq Rafay, his wife Sultana and their daughter Basma were viciously bludgeoned in their home in Bellevue, Washington. Four hours later, after dinner, a movie and a late-night snack, Atif Rafay, the son of Tariq and Sultana, returned home with Sebastian Burns, a close friend and guest of the Rafay’s, to discover a horrific scene. Numb with shock, Sebastian Burns called 911 and, terrified that the killer or killers might still be in the house, the two boys fled into the street to await the arrival of the police. Within moments a police cruiser passed the house, unable to find the correct address. Burns and Rafay chased after it, pounding on a window to get it to stop.

Police who entered the Rafay home following the murders were shocked and disturbed by the horrible, bloody crime scene. Sultana Rafay was killed by a fatal blow to the head. Basma Rafay was injured and died later in hospital, having suffered repeated blows to the head and body. Dr. Rafay lay in bed, his head completely crushed by a blunt object. The walls, floor and ceiling of his bedroom were covered in blood, bone, teeth and tissue. Tremendous amounts of blood were tracked throughout the property—in the carpets, on the walls, in the downstairs bathroom and in a series of footprints in the garage.

Sebastian and Atif Cooperate With Police

After the murders Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were in Bellevue for 56 hours, spending almost all their waking hours with the Bellevue police.

In the hours and days that followed the murders, Sebastian and Atif accompanied the Bellevue Police for extensive questioning, provided them with their clothing, shoes and eyeglasses, and allowed police to perform searches of their bodies and affects using a specialized light designed to detect blood in miniscule quantities. They allowed the Bellevue police to fingerprint, photograph them and subject them to a gunshot residue test. They did not deny a single police request during these days and did not exercise their Miranda right to counsel. Atif signed a search warrant and gave investigators his password so they could search his computer.

Police did not find any blood evidence on either Sebastian or Atif.  After the murders Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were in Bellevue for 56 hours, spending almost all their waking hours with the Bellevue police.

None of these tests, searches or interviews revealed any incriminating evidence. When not with the Bellevue Police, the two boys, at the behest of police, stayed in a dingy room at the since-demolished Bellevue Motel where they were given little opportunity for sleep. Neither teenager was offered any grief counseling or support.

 Police Lies Fed to the Media

On July 15, 1994 the Canadian Consulate in Seattle obtained explicit permission from the Bellevue Police Department to return the boys to Sebastian’s parents’ home in Vancouver, Canada. The Rafay family had only recently moved from Vancouver to Bellevue, and Vancouver was home to both Sebastian and Atif. Despite their full cooperation with the Bellevue Police and their escorted and legal return to Canada, the Bellevue Police soon decided they were prime suspects and labeled them fugitives. Then they told journalists in both countries a series of lies:

  1. That Sebastian and Atif had behaved strangely on the night of the murders and the following days, thereby arousing suspicion;
  2. That they had failed to show emotion after finding the Rafay family murdered;
  3. That they did not cooperate with the police in Bellevue;
  4. That they purposefully missed the funeral;
  5. That they “fled” to Canada.

After observing the foul play of investigators at the Bellevue Police Department, friends, family and legal counsel for Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay recommended that they remain in their home country—Canada.

Evidence Exonerates Sebastian and Atif

In the days, weeks and months that followed, the Bellevue Police Department examined the physical evidence at the crime scene and carefully determined the circumstantial evidence by interviewing numerous witnesses and the neighbors on both sides of the Rafay home. Contrary to the investigators’ initial theory, all the evidence pointed away from Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay. Here are the reasons why:

  1. The neighbors independently confirmed that the murders happened when the boys were known to be elsewhere;
  2. The examination of the physical matter at the crime scene failed to produce any incriminating evidence;
  3. No blood, bone or tissue was found on either boy’s body or clothing that could possibly suggest involvement in the murders.

Even after all the physical and circumstantial evidence produced by investigators exonerated Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, lead detectives on the case persisted in their belief that they were guilty.

Physical and Circumstantial Evidence Points to Other Killers

But the physical evidence demonstrated even more than their innocence: it demonstrated that at least three people, none of them Sebastian Burns or Atif Rafay, were responsible for the murders. This is confirmed by DNA found at the crime scene and by the State’s own analysis of the blood spatter in Dr. Rafay’s bedroom.

DNA Evidence:
Investigators found physical evidence at the crime scene that they believed must have been left by the killers. This key evidence was tested and re-tested, but was found to only contain DNA that did not belong to Sultana Rafay, Basma Rafay, Tariq Rafay, Sebastian Burns or Atif Rafay. These key pieces of evidence are:

  1. A coarse body hair or pubic hair found on Dr. Rafay’s fitted sheet;
  2. DNA in the downstairs shower mixed with Dr. Rafay’s blood;
  3. DNA in a footprint in the garage mixed with Dr. Rafay’s blood.

Blood Spatter Evidence: Ross Gardner, the state’s expert who examined the blood spatter evidence, concluded both in his report and in trial that at least three people were in Dr. Rafay’s bedroom while blows were being struck. While on the stand, this expert said, “I cannot explain the stains in any other way.”

The Bellevue investigators didn’t just have physical evidence telling them other people murdered the Rafays: they also received three independent tips, all vetted by other law enforcement agencies, that clearly implicate other parties and other motives, among them Islamic extremism.

Dr. Rafay Had Enemies

Dr. Rafay was a prominent Sunni Muslim who was active in his religious and cultural community, first in Vancouver, then in Bellevue. He was co-founder and President of the Canadian-Pakistan Friendship Organization and he published a paper and developed a controversial computer program indicating Muslims in British Columbia weren’t facing Mecca when they prayed.

About a month after the murders, an FBI informant told Bellevue investigators that a Muslim cleric in Seattle had ordered Dr. Rafay killed because of his teachings of the Koran. This informant also believed a baseball bat was the murder weapon, which in fact it was. He provided this information at a time when Bellevue investigators knew a baseball bat was one of the murder weapons, but before this fact was made public. Incredibly, the Bellevue Police Department did not investigate this or two other tips they received shortly after the murders were committed.

For more information, see the Other Suspects page of this web site.

Similar Murder: Unsolved

Back in 1994, Bellevue investigators obviously didn’t believe murders could be motivated by ideas or religious extremism. They probably thought it was more likely a family member was responsible. But tragic events continue to suggest Islamic extremism remains a threat both domestically and abroad: in January 2003, Riasat Ali Khan, a close friend of Dr. Rafay and also a former president of the Canadian-Pakistan Friendship Organization, was murdered outside his home in Vancouver, BC. His murder remains unsolved.

Illegal Undercover Operation

Nine months after the murders, frustrated by the lack of evidence suggesting the guilt of Sebastian Burns or Atif Rafay and uninterested in evidence implicating other parties, the Bellevue Police Department obtained the assistance of the RCMP. In response, the RCMP chose to initiate an undercover sting operation that is illegal in the United States. Although legal in Canada, these tactics are also known to have elicited false confessions from other teenagers suspected of murder.

In this undercover operation, known in Canada as “Mr. Big”, two undercover officers made the acquaintance of Sebastian Burns. They then revealed their phony identities as violent criminals and coerced Sebastian’s involvement in their group by putting him in the position of “knowing too much”. Using threats of death and violence, promises, and even pretending to have underworld connections to the investigation in Bellevue, these police officers coerced false confessions from Sebastian Burns, Atif Rafay and their friend Jimmy Miyoshi. All three were subsequently arrested.

For more information, see the False Confessions page of this web site.

Later, the RCMP threatened Jimmy Miyoshi with a charge of Conspiracy to Commit Murder, even suggesting to him that he may face the death penalty if he did not tell the police that Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were guilty. Jimmy Miyoshi signed an immunity agreement and provided the RCMP with a number of statements. Every single statement contradicts the last and each one contradicts the physical evidence at the crime scene. At trial Jimmy Miyoshi, who lives in Japan, refused to return to North America to testify. Instead, a deposition recorded months earlier was shown to the jury.

Before giving this video-taped deposition in court, Jimmy Miyoshi phoned Sebastian Burns’ lawyer, Jeff Robinson, and asked him for help. Jeff Robinson could not do anything for him because Jimmy was a witness for the prosecution. When Mr. Robinson asked about this call during his deposition, Jimmy Miyoshi lied, claiming he contacted Jeff Robinson because he feared Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay.

False Confessions

These confessions and the statements provided by Jimmy Miyoshi are not merely unreliable, having been coerced by threats and promises. These confessions are false.

How do we know these confessions are false? They are proven false beyond a reasonable doubt because every material element of the confessions is refuted by the evidence obtained by the state. The material elements determined by the state’s own experts (arrived at both during the investigation and in trial) that do not match the confessions include:

  1. The number of killers (state’s expert concluded at least 3 killers);
  2. The identity of a murder weapon (wounds on Dr. Rafay’s neck show a sharp object was used in the attack);
  3. The timing of the murders (two independent witnesses confirm the murders were definitely over by 10:15 p.m.);
  4. The use of gloves (state’s expert said in a pre-trial interview that he would have found glove marks at the scene if gloves were used—he didn’t find any);
  5. Details of Basma Rafay’s attack (state’s expert concluded Basma moved from her bed to the floor—she never walked around as the newspaper reports and later the confessions claimed);
  6. Movement of the murderers in the house (blood evidence shows the killers were in the garage).

These details were not known by Sebastian Burns or Atif Rafay at the time of the RCMP undercover operation because they weren’t public knowledge and because Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay are not the killers. The only possible explanation for the serious and numerous discrepancies between the confessions and the evidence is that the confessions are false.

Inconsistent “Confessions”

These “confessions” are false by definition: they are inconsistent with the facts of the case—facts that were determined by the prosecution’s own experts. But the manner in which Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay told these stories also tells us they are false: each boy’s confession is internally inconsistent and each contradicts the other’s confession regarding what Sebastian was wearing, what they did with the incriminating evidence and where they obtained the murder weapon. Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay couldn’t keep their stories straight.

Even more importantly, these “confessions” do not contain any additional information that only the killers could know.

Jury Misled

One question remains—if innocence is so clear, why did twelve people decide to convict Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, condemning them to life in prison? Probably because the jury’s understanding of this case was incomplete. The trial judge ruled key evidence inadmissible: the jury was not permitted to learn about the lead provided by an FBI informant or another lead provided by the Intelligence Division of the Seattle Police—a lead also pointing to religious extremists. Despite the fact that these leads were not investigated by the Bellevue Police Department, they can be related to one another. Considered together, they provide an overwhelming answer to the question of who committed these murders.

The jury was also not permitted to hear from Dr. Richard A Leo, a professor at the University of California and a leading expert on the phenomenon of false confessions. Dr. Leo agreed to present information on what he describes as the “highly counter-intuitive phenomenon of false confessions and how and why police investigators sometimes elicit them from people of normal or superior intelligence.” According to Dr. Leo’s Declaration to the Court, the purpose of this testimony was “to provide the jury with relevant and reliable social scientific information about the psychological phenomenon of interrogation and false confessions so that the jury can make a more informed decision when deciding the factual issue of the reliability of the defendants’ admissions in this case.”

Instead of allowing this expert testimony, the judge determined that it was “the province of this jury to decide whether or not in their common experience and common sense these statements made by these defendants to those undercover police officers are voluntary or involuntary …” This committee suggests that police officers posing as violent murderers to 19-year-old boys could not possibly be part of the common experience or common sense of any jury, and that is why jurors in this trial and many others are unable to distinguish real confessions from false ones.

Furthermore, the judge in this trial did not adhere to his own decision to ensure that the videotaped statements made by Burns and Rafay were judged by the jury alone. During trial the undercover police officers were permitted to deconstruct and analyze Sebastian Burns’ behavior during the undercover operation. While on the stand, they repeatedly told the jury that an innocent person would not behave as Sebastian did during the sting. Why did the judge allow the very operators of the undercover sting to masquerade as experts on how innocent people respond to their menacing and coercive tactics? Why didn’t the judge allow a genuine expert, with no interest in the outcome of the trial, to inform the jury of how innocent people actually respond to police tactics such as these? In reality, these officers were not providing expertise—they were validating their operation and their tactics. In a fair trial, the defense would have been allowed to introduce an expert to respond to the undercover police officers’ inexpert, self-serving and subjective interpretations of the defendant’s behaviour and psychology.

Innocence is Proven Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The prosecution in this trial managed to convince the jury that Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay were arrogant, brilliant monsters capable of planning and executing the perfect murder. We ask you, in this age of scientific analyses of crime scenes:

  1. Could two 18-year-olds remove all the minute physical evidence of a bludgeoning from their own bodies, from their car and from a horrifically bloody crime scene?
  2. Could they fabricate evidence at the crime scene indicating at least three people were responsible?
  3. Would they be able to coerce statements from numerous witnesses to confirm an air-tight alibi?
  4. Could they possibly plant other people’s DNA at the crime scene?
  5. Would they have the power to plant leads before and after the murders indicating the involvement of violent religious extremists?
  6. Would these same brilliant 18-year-olds then be fooled by two undercover Canadian police officers pretending to be violent criminals?

 Of course not. That is why Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay are innocent. did they flee?

Analysing the State’s Theory of “Suspicious Behavior”

After the murders of Tariq, Basma and Sultana Rafay on July 12th, 1994 Bellevue investigators had full access to Sebastian and Atif for two days and three nights. During that time, Sebastian and Atif provided three interviews each, allowed themselves to be fingerprinted, tested for gunshot residue, photographed, volunteered their clothing, shoes and, in Atif’s case, eyeglasses, and had their bodies examined with blood-detecting lamps. Atif allowed Bellevue investigators to access his computer and gave them the password. Sebastian and Atif did not deny even one request made by the police, even though it was perfectly in their right to do so.

Sebastian and Atif left Bellevue on July 15th, 1994 with the permission of the Bellevue Police Department and with the assistance of an employee from the Canadian Consulate in Seattle.

After their legal and escorted return to Canada, Bellevue investigators told reporters, the RCMP and members of the public a series of lies designed to make Sebastian and Atif’s behavior appear suspicious. Bellevue investigators used this false pattern of “suspicious behavior” to legitimate their theory that Sebastian and Atif were responsible for these murders.

During trial, this characterization of Sebastian and Atif’s behavior as “suspicious” was shown to be inaccurate and groundless. However, journalists and the public are not aware of this and are also not aware of the series of lies perpetrated by Bellevue investigators to substantiate this characterization.

We have used trial transcripts, pre-trial hearing transcripts and first-hand accounts to prepare this document that exposes the misinformation perpetuated by the lead investigators of the Bellevue Police Department.

Police claim:
Sebastian and Atif did not show any emotion after the murders.

This claim is utterly false and is refuted by police officers’ reports of Sebastian and Atif’s demeanor after they discovered the murder victims.

  • Officer Hromata of the Bellevue Police Department was the first police officer at the scene after Sebastian and Atif called 911. He reported that Atif and Sebastian were visibly upset, shaking and on the verge of tears. They had difficulty talking, at times incoherent. He had to tell them to “calm down.”
  • Officer Goodson was the next officer to have contact with Sebastian and Atif and remained with them for 15 to 20 minutes. She reported that Sebastian was very emotional, bent over and appeared ill. She asked him, “Are you okay?”
  • Officer Goodson reported that Atif was subdued at that time. She turned Atif over to Officer Lewis. Officer Lewis also reported that Atif was subdued. Officer Lewis reported that Atif appeared to be stunned and in shock.

In the weeks following the murders, investigators in Bellevue knew that Atif continued to display typical signs of grief.

  • Atif’s uncle communicated with the police two weeks after the murders and told them Atif was “crying very hard” and “sobbing” about the loss of his family.

Police claim:
Atif did not contact his family members and did not want them contacted.

This is false. Atif helped Bellevue investigators contact his relatives. Using information he gave them, Atif’s relatives were contacted the day after the murders, on July 13th. Atif told Bellevue investigators that he would like to see his family, but Bellevue investigators kept Atif from his family and friends for the entire time he and Sebastian were in Bellevue.

  • On July 13th, the day after the murders, Atif helped the police contact his family. He gave Officer Lewis, the first police officer that interviewed him, the name of his father’s closest friend in Bellevue, who was a work associate, and told Officer Lewis where he lived, the name of his wife, the names of his and children and the name of his employer. He told Officer Lewis this man could contact his relatives. Atif didn’t know the phone numbers of his extended family members, but he told the police that these numbers could be retrieved from the speed dial on his parents’ phone.
  • The police used this information, provided by Atif, to contact his relatives and his father’s work associate. They contacted these people and informed them of the tragedy on the very same day—July 13th, 1994.
  • Detective Gomes of the Bellevue Police Department told Atif he would contact his relatives for him, so that 18-year-old Atif did not have to phone up all his distant relations living in Pakistan, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario to inform them that he had found his entire family slaughtered.
  • On July 14th, almost two days after the murders, Atif reminded Detective Gomes during a taped interview that Detective Gomes had offered to contact Atif’s relatives for him. Detective Gomes responded, “Well, we talked, we talked about that, but you didn’t, I didn’t promise that I was going to call anybody.”
  • In fact, at the time of this meeting on July 14th, not only had Atif’s relatives already been contacted, many had arrived in Bellevue. Instead of telling Atif the truth, the two lead detectives carried on a bizarre charade: they told Atif he had to inform the extended family of the tragedy. They repeatedly chastised him for not contacting his relatives, calling him irresponsible and accusing him of not loving his extended family. Atif didn’t have a phone in his motel room, he didn’t have his relatives’ phone numbers and, being in shock himself, he didn’t have the courage to make these calls. The detectives told him he should use a payphone and directory assistance. The Bellevue investigators did not tell him what they knew: Atif’s relatives would not be home because they had already gathered in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Later in the taped interview of July 14th, Detective Gomes asked Atif: “… What if I told you that half of your family is already in Seattle?” Atif responded, “I’d like to see them I guess.” Detective Gomes did NOT proceed to tell Atif they were in Seattle, although they were.
  • Atif’s family were only told of his whereabouts on July 15th. By then it was too late to reach him as he had already returned to Vancouver.

Police claim:
The Bellevue Police found it suspicious when Atif left Bellevue to return to Vancouver, BC.

Sebastian and Atif left Bellevue 3 days after the murders with the assistance of the Canadian consulate in Seattle and the blessing of the Bellevue Police Department. If the Bellevue Police Department wanted him to stay, why did they tell the Canadian consulate he was free to leave?

  • After the murder of his family on July 12th, 1994, Atif remained in Bellevue Washington in order to cooperate with the police investigation. He remained in Bellevue until the morning of July 15th, 1994. Both Sebastian and Atif submitted to numerous tests and interviews during this time period. It is still unclear what additional interviews or tests the Bellevue Police required.
  • On July 14th, 1994 Sebastian’s mother contacted the Canadian Consulate in Seattle to ask for assistance in having her son and Atif returned to her home in Vancouver. An employee of the Consulate, Cindy Taylor-Blakley, telephoned the Bellevue Police Department and asked if the boys were free to return to Canada. Lieutenant Mott of the Bellevue Police Department told her they were not suspects and they were free to go [Cindy Taylor-Blakley testified at trial for the defense]. She met Sebastian and Atif at the bus station and they left for Canada on the morning of July 15th, 1994.

Police claim:
Atif knew about the funeral or should have known about the funeral but missed it on purpose.

This claim is false. Sebastian and Atif were kept isolated from friends and family, therefore they could not have known the timing of the funeral. Additionally, the Bellevue investigators did not tell them that the bodies would soon be released—-in fact, the bodies were released only 3 days after the murders.

  • The bodies of Tariq, Sultana and Basma Rafay were released to family members on July 15th. The lead detective in Bellevue learned about the funeral arrangements at 10 a.m. on July 15th, after Sebastian and Atif had caught the bus with the assistance of Cindy Taylor-Blakley of the Canadian Consulate.
  • Bellevue Police contacted border officials to inform them Sebastian and Atif would be crossing the border. However, Bellevue investigators did NOT tell border officials to inform Atif of the funeral or of the fact that his family was already in Bellevue. They continued to keep this information from him. Why?

The question is not why Atif did not attend the funeral, but why he was prevented from attending the funeral. Why wasn’t Atif told that his family was already in Bellevue before he left? Why wasn’t Atif met at the border and told not only that his relatives were in Bellevue, but that his family’s funeral would take place in a few hours?

Furthermore, why were the bodies released less than three days after the murders? Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to expect more thorough autopsies?


Did Atif purposefully miss his family’s funeral?

On the morning of July 15th, 1994, the day the Rafay family was buried, Atif did not know that his family was in Bellevue, he did not know that the bodies of his mother, father and sister had been released, he did not know funeral arrangements were being made and he did not know the funeral would be held in Bellevue instead of in Vancouver, where the family had deeper connections. Furthermore, it was clear to him that the Bellevue Police viewed him as a suspect, even if for no good reason. It is not suspicious that Atif returned to safety in Vancouver, Canada.

However, it is alarming and suspicious that the Bellevue Police Department isolated Atif from his family and that they permitted him to return to Canada without informing him that his family was in the US.

Tragically, Atif Rafay learned that his family’s funeral had taken place by watching the evening news, which was playing in the Burns’ living room in Vancouver. Upon discovering his family’s funeral had been planned and carried out without his involvement, Atif was mortified. He immediately ran to the phone and called Detective Thompson at the Bellevue Police Department. Detective Thompson never returned this phone call.

Did Atif and Sebastian show emotion after discovering the murders?

Reports generated by the Bellevue Police Department demonstrate that Atif and Sebastian both behaved very emotionally. In fact, both displayed classic signs of fear, grief and shock.

The REAL questions remain:

Why did Bellevue investigators misrepresent Sebastian and Atif’s behavior and actions?

Why did Bellevue investigators cause Atif to miss his family’s funeral then blame Atif for this cruel mistake?