Cold cases - or unsolved criminal investigations - are considered by police and private investigators some of the toughest to crack. Suspects vanish. Leads become harder to probe. Investigating officers give up.
But these obstacles haven't stopped private investigation firm, IRS Forensic Investigations, from taking on a series of cases that have remained unsolved for years. In the second of our three part series, Shain Germaner takes a look at the disappearance of Jeppestown businessman, Nazeer Mohammed.
Almost six years have passed since Zaheera Mohammed last saw her brother, Nazeer.
The family dinners and holidays together have been tainted by his disappearance, and she fears that her newborn child will never know her uncle.
Shaieda, their mother, treasures a Mother’s Day card that he gave her.
“Thank you for all that you do For believing in me I owe my success to you and all that I will become, and dream of sharing it with you,” it reads.
But no one knows what has become of Nazeer Mohammed, who was last seen at his Jeppestown car dealership in December 2012, taken away in a black Nissan Navara by three men who claimed they wanted to buy a car.
Six years later, Nazeer hasn’t been found, dead or alive, and police investigations have seemingly come to a halt. But there are still leads, says private investigator at IRS Forensic Investigations, Glenda Paul.
Initially, four people were arrested for charges relating to Nazeer’s disappearance. Two men were arrested for the kidnapping, but the charges were dropped, allegedly due to lack of evidence.
Two others, Robert Nemabhaka and Rotshidzwa Netshiavha, were also arrested after being found in possession of two of the four vehicles stolen from Nazeer’s business, as well as two of his cellphones.
Nemabhaka and Netshiavha were convicted on charges of theft and possession of stolen property and sentenced to six years in prison.
But the pair insisted they were innocent, and granted leave to appeal the charges against them. However, they were also allowed bail pending the appeal outcome, and Netshiavha has failed to appear at subsequent court dates, with investigators convinced he has fled.
While a warrant of arrest has been issued to try and find Netshiavha, it’s understood that he and Nemabhaka could also be linked directly to Nazeer’s kidnapping.
“What is of concern, is that all four suspects were linked in some or other way to Nazeer.
“Prior to Nazeer’s kidnapping, he had an altercation with an individual known to the investigators. Nazeer reported this man to Jeppe SAPS for theft. Nemabhaka worked for this particular person,” says Paul.
“After Nazeer reported the theft case to Jeppe SAPS, he started receiving threats. On December 5, 2012 (two days before the kidnapping) a person driving a minibus taxi stopped outside Nazeer’s business and allegedly said to him that if he had a problem with the person that Nazeer had reported to Jeppe SAPS, he then had a problem with him as well.
“Two days later, Nazeer disappeared, and two days later a ransom call was received by the family.”
Nazeer’s parents received numerous calls from the alleged kidnappers asking for a ransom of R150000. The call was traced to a public pay phone at the Noord Street taxi rank, and further ransom calls came through in January 2013, eventually linked to the two men who were later arrested for the kidnapping.
Even with these direct links, the men were never placed on trial.
Paul says the two other vehicles stolen from Nazeer’s business, a gold VW Polo classic and a silver Ford Bantam bakkie could also be key to solving the case.
The stalled police investigation into the kidnapping docket does not necessarily mean the end of the case, at least according to Paul.
She reveals the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has agreed for the case to be converted to an inquest docket, so that all suspects and witnesses can be brought before a court to test their credibility. NPA spokesperson, Phindi Mjonondwane told the Saturday Star that for the inquest to begin, the family still has to apply for a declaration of death.
The final step could begin the process that could finally bring the Mohammed family some closure.
“It’s very painful to go through major moments in life without him,” says Mohammed. “He would have been a loving uncle and a good role model to my kids. My parents live in constant shock, anxiety and depression. Not a day goes by that we don’t share a memory about Nazeer.”
The initial media attention was also a double-edged sword for the family as people claiming to have pertinent information proved to be charlatans.
“We had someone approach us and tell us that they were at Nazeer’s business premises the day the incident took place. They kept on calling us and said they got information and requesting money to travel to the police station.
“We notified the investigating officer who followed up on this and they had no information. After that, they still called sounding very convincing that they witnessed what happened and they need money. The investigating officers followed up and they stopped contacting us,” said Mohammed.
Despite the possibility of potential con artists providing false hope, the family are still desperate for answers.
“We are begging the people who are involved to please let us know what happened. We pray everyday for Nazeer, my parents cry everyday for him Please bring us closure.”
Anyone with information, is contact Glenda Paul at IRS Forensic Investigations on 0861911477 or on [email protected]