The family of 24-year-old Abdulla Maail, reported missing on January 27, has expressed concerns that police have been negligent in their investigation of his disappearance.
Lhaimagu Island Council has echoed these concerns, saying they are “not at all satisfied” with the manner the police have handled parts of the investigation.
Maail – from Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadhoo – went missing from the uninhabited island of Firunbaidhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, where he was employed on an agriculture project.
Only one other person, 62-year-old Hassan Ali, was on the island at the time of the disappearance. He reported Maail to be missing on the afternoon of January 27, according to police.
Police officials have denied the suggestions of negligence, saying that the search up to this point had been prompt and thorough.
‘Delays narrow chances of finding Maail’: Council
Lhaimagu Councillor Ahmed Shinan said the police had taken long time to respond after the disappearance was reported, expressing concern that the chances of finding Maail had subsequently narrowed.
“Hassan Ali told us, in the presence of other council members and police, that he reported Maail’s disappearance to police at 4.30pm. Police, however, did not arrive on the island until after 11pm that night,” claimed the councillor.
“It took over 6 hours for police to come, when the distance between Firunbaidhoo and Fonadhoo can be travelled in just under 10 minutes by speedboat. We heard later from the island’s proprietor that police refused to come until he arranged speed boat transfer for them”.
Police today acknowledged some “transportation challenges” after the case was reported, but said they had begun work on the case immediately after being alerted.
“We only received reports at 6.30pm and I think police reached the scene around 9pm,” a media official told Minivan News.
According to the Shinan, however, locals waited hours for police to arrive at the scene.
“This was valuable time wasted when we could have commenced the search for Maail. We’re talking about a human being that’s gone missing, not some petty robbery. We cannot afford to be careless in the investigation,” he said.
Shinan said that the police had left the island unattended after the initial search, giving potentially guilty parties an opportunity to eliminate or tamper with evidence.
He also argued that witnesses had not been investigated thoroughly enough, suggesting that reports of a supply dinghy having visited the island minutes before Maail’s absence was realised could be key.
The councillor also expressed disappointment that it took police over two days to begin searching the sea.
Police have denied the delay, saying that the coast guard-assisted search began the day after the reported disappearance. Officials declined from giving further details as the investigation continues.
Family feels unsupported
Maail’s brother Mohamed Shifau has travelled to the capital Malé from Meemu atoll, after the family had been unable to contact Shaviyani police.
“We have continuously tried calling the head of the Shaviyani Police Station to ask for updates on the investigation, but he hasn’t answered our calls even once in the past week,” he told Minivan News.
“There are certain aspects of the investigation that we believe the police overlooked, some people that they haven’t questioned, and so on. We shared that information with the police in Malé.”
The family have also sent a letter outlining their concerns to the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, though they have as yet received no reply.
Dissatisfied with the response from police, Shifau appealed to politicians for assistance, meeting with politicians across the spectrum.
“The Shaviyani Atoll Fonadhoo constituency’s parliamentarian Ali Saleem met with us, but said he could give us no more than five minutes. He stated that the police will investigate the matter and there is nothing else he can do for us,” Shifau explained.
After failing to contact Kudahuvadhoo constituency MP Ahmed Amir, Shifau met with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“The MDP was very sympathetic, and Chairperson Ali Waheed promptly arranged a meeting with a committee from the party. They provided assistance by guiding our family on future steps that can be taken,” Shifau said.
(PHOTOS: LHAIMAGU ONLINE)