Foul play was unlikely in the disappearance of a 19-year-old woman but there were discrepancies in the account of the man who was with her when she went missing on February 22, police revealed Monday.
Aminath Shima Nafiz went missing after a dinghy capsized en route from Fonadhoo to her native Maamendhoo. She had been travelling with 24-year-old Ibrahim Fazeel after arriving at the Laamu atoll domestic airport from the capital Malé.
According to Fazeel, the dinghy capsized due to rough seas when he stopped the motor to refuel. He claimed he swam to the nearby Six Senses resort to seek help after leaving Shima with a mobile phone and jerry can to be used as a flotation device.
Despite an extensive search effort, neither Shima nor the dinghy has been located so far.
Briefing the press about the case for the first time, Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Fairoosh said Fazeel’s account was mostly true but some parts were questionable. He declined to share details citing an ongoing investigation.
Shima and Fazeel decided to take the small dinghy after missing the ferry to the island. But the vessel was not in a condition to make the trip, he noted.
“We believe that Shima decided to take the trip of her own volition. From CCTV footage we have gathered, we can confirm that. From the images we have seen from CCTV footage, we can assume that the two had a very close relationship,” Fairoosh said.
Based on Shima and Fazeel’s phone conversations, police estimate the dinghy capsized around 7pm that evening.
“Even at that time, Shima was using her phone to send messages. We do not have details about the conversations. But through call recordings we know that she was messaging,” he said.
Fairoosh said investigators were trying to find out the conversation she was having on Facebook messenger.
“After this, there are some things that needed to be further investigated. As such, it is difficult to reveal now what the lines of inquiry are,” he said.
There was no evidence to support speculation about Shimaa being abducted, he said.
Two uninhabited islands were searched on Monday after reports from a member of the public claiming that Shima’s body had been incinerated.
In March, just days after the incident, three men were arrested on suspicion of trying to abduct the younger sister of Shima.
It was later reported that Fazeel was among the three suspects arrested at sea with the younger sister. They were ferrying her to Maamendhoo from Fonadhoo.
On Monday, police said that there was no connection between the incidents. The case against the three suspects has been forwarded for prosecution.
After Shima went missing, the Maldives National Defence Force’s coastguard launched an extensive search of the area around the islands in Laamu atoll.
Police and Maamendhoo islanders assisted with the search effort as the MNDF used diving robots to search a 400km area underwater.