Lawyer for family of Wasaga Beach abductee questions whether police took her safety seriously

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Two days before Elnaz Hajtamiri was abducted from her family’s home in Wasaga Beach, Ont., in January, sources with direct knowledge of the situation told CBC News that she had returned to the GTA to collect her car, his computer and his mobile phone to the police, who asked them to check the tracking devices and software.

Hajtamiri had given her belongings to York Regional Police for analysis after she was attacked by two masked men in the parking lot of her Richmond Hill condominium on December 21. Prior to the attack, two illegal tracking devices were discovered under her Lexus by dealership workers when she brought the car in for service, a relative previously told CBC News.

Fearing for his safety, Hajtamiri moved with his family to Wasaga Beach right after the parking lot attack. She had been there for nearly three weeks without incident. The only time she left was when she collected her car, computer and mobile phone at the request of police and brought the belongings to her loved ones’ home on January 10, according to sources with knowledge. direct knowledge of the situation.

Two days later, on January 12, she was forcibly taken from the house by three men – and remains missing.

Hajtamiri trusted the police: lawyer

“Elnaz did everything right,” said Toronto attorney Devin Bains, who was hired to investigate the case by Hajtamiri’s family.

“She contacted the authorities whenever she should have, she trusted them as she should have to protect her and to investigate effectively. I don’t know if the police acted as they should have.”

The former Crown prosecutor told CBC News that, based on his experience of similar investigations and forensic work, the approximately three weeks police had Hajtamiri’s electronics to search for tracking and software were “surprisingly short” to get the job done right.

Former Crown prosecutor Devin Bains has been hired by Elnaz Hajtamiri’s family to investigate the abducted woman’s case. (Radio Canada)

“I hope the job was done, and I hope the Elnaz situation was taken seriously, but it’s a very short time,” Bains said.

In a statement, a York Regional Police spokesperson would not confirm whether or not investigators took Hajtamiri’s personal effects to check for tracking devices or software, citing the ongoing investigation. The service would not release details “about the evidence seized”.

const. Laura Nicolle confirmed that she seized tracking devices as part of her investigation, but did not provide details on how many tracking devices were seized and when.

In addition to the two tracking devices found on Hajtamiri’s car by dealership personnel before the parking lot attack, sources with direct knowledge of the situation told CBC News that a third tracking device was found on his Lexus by the police.

These sources say it is unclear whether police found this tracker when investigators had Hajtamiri’s car for three weeks after the parking lot attack, or whether the tracker was found on the car after it was abducted.

Kidnapping suggests no organized security plan: lawyer

The way Hajtamiri’s car and electronics were analyzed is just one of many aspects of the police investigation that Bains finds concerning following Hajtamiri’s kidnapping. The lawyer told CBC News that despite the attack on the parking lot – and the surveillance evidence – clearly indicating that Hajtamiri was in imminent danger, the circumstances of his abduction suggest that there was no organized plan to ensure his safety.

Hajtamiri was abducted by three men who wore police gear and claimed to have a warrant to arrest her on January 12 around 8:30 p.m., according to the OPP. The suspects overpowered the owner and abducted Hajtamiri, then took off in a white Lexus RX SUV.

“What happened to Elnaz the night of his abduction does not really suggest that there was active police surveillance of his home,” Bains said. “If true, it’s not promising in terms of an organized plan, or Elnaz’s situation being taken seriously.”

CBC News asked the OPP if York Regional Police informed the provincial service of Hajtamiri’s case, if they were told she was staying with relatives in Wasaga Beach and if the OPP Ontario had taken steps to protect its safety.

But in an email, an OPP spokesperson said the service could not discuss the details of the case in order to protect the integrity of its investigation.

Given that the Wasaga Beach address was linked to Hajtamiri’s family and that the police do not appear to have watched the house, Bains does not understand why the police would approve of his move to the small town about 145 kilometers north of Toronto. .

“If Elnaz’s imminent danger was recognized and seen — and seen as it should have been — it’s hard to see how his move to a relatively remote town in Ontario has enhanced his safety,” Bains said.

A manager of shelter services at Interval House – Canada’s first center for abused women and children – told CBC News that after Hajtamiri reported her assault to the police, she would be expected to receive resources to ensure his safety.

“She has to put this security plan in place,” said Paula Del Cid. “They could have put her in touch with safe havens.”

Hajtamiri broke up with her boyfriend in October

Hajtamiri, who also goes by the surname Tamiri, was born in Iran and came to Canada in 2018. She found work in the import-export shipping industry, according to a press release from her family, but she quit her job to focus on starting a cake-making business.

Bains and other sources told CBC News that she broke off her relationship with ex-boyfriend Mohamad Lilo in October last year. On November 19, Hajtamiri contacted police after her ex-boyfriend came to her condominium building, according to York Regional Police.

Mohamad Lilo, 34, was arrested Jan. 21 and charged with criminal harassment, according to the Ontario Provincial Police. He was released on bail four days later and will next appear in court on April 12. (Mohamad Lilo/Facebook)

The police department said officers spoke with the ex-boyfriend and told him he was not welcome to return to the building. Since Hajtamiri’s abduction, the Ontario Provincial Police have charged Lilo with criminal harassment. He was released on bail at the end of January and is next due in court on April 12. Sources say the alleged stalking happened in the weeks leading up to his disappearance.

Police have not charged anyone with abducting Hajtamiri or assaulting her in the parking lot of her building at this time.

“Imminent danger” after the first attack

During the December 21 attack, Hajtamiri was beaten with a frying pan, her cousin told CBC News, and suffered a head wound that required 35 to 40 stitches. CBC News is not identifying the cousin, who lives in the United States, out of concern for her safety.

The same cousin told CBC News that Hajtamiri had reason to believe she was being watched at the time of the first attack after tracking devices were found on a car she was renting. In fact, Bains says, the parking lot attack happened shortly after Hajtamiri brought those tracking devices to York Regional Police.

Elnaz Hajtamiri suffered a head injury that required 35 to 40 stitches after she was beaten with a frying pan in the underground parking lot of her apartment on December 21, according to her cousin. (Submitted by Hajtamiri family)

At that time, Bains says investigators should have known Hajtamiri was in “imminent danger.”

“I hope there was a plan in place that just failed. There was a glitch, there was a team change, there was an inadvertent ball drop. That’s what I’d like to think,” Bains said.

“I don’t want to think that the kidnapping of Elnaz was the result not only of ill intent towards her by her attackers, but also of the negligence of the system of which I am a part.”

In an email, a York Regional Police spokesperson said CBC News officers are conducting a thorough investigation and continue to work closely with the Ontario Provincial Police.

“We will continue to work diligently on this issue until it can be resolved,” said Const. Nicole.

Hajtamiri is described as five-foot-three, with a slim build and shoulder-length black hair. OPP investigators have set up a dedicated hotline for the case at 1-833-728-3415, and are asking the public for any information that might help locate Hajtamiri.

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