17 October 2018

Tanzania: Why CCTV Is Key to Resolving Kidnap Mystery

Photo: The Citizen
The Colosseum Hotel in Dar es Salaam.

Dar es Salaam — The key to resolving the mystery surrounding the kidnapping of billionaire Mohammed Dewji lies in establishing who tampered with security cameras at Colosseum Hotel and why.

Failure by CCTV cameras installed at the hotel to capture clear images of the abduction has brought to the fore questions as to who might have tempered with the devices and what their motive could have been.

The former Singida Urban MP and Simba Sports Club patron was kidnapped last Thursday at around 5am at the hotel where he had gone for his routine morning exercise.

Police say two white men, probably foreigners, arrived at the hotel in a Toyota Surf, snatched the businessman, fired in the air before they sped away. To date, there has been no clue from either investigators or relatives on Mr Dewji's whereabouts, who might have carried out the kidnapping and why. Police have so far arrested and questioned 26 people in connection with the abduction, 19 of whom have been released on bond.

Mr Dewji's family on Monday announced a record Sh1 billion reward for information leading to his safe return.

However, one question regarding the abduction has refused to go. To what extent have security cameras along Haile Selassie Road and within the vicinity of Colosseum Hotel helped to identify the abductors? Shortly after reports of the kidnapping went viral, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda and Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Lazaro Mambosasa told reporters that initial reports indicated that the abductors were white men driving a Toyota Surf.

However, Mr Mambosasa could not say whether this was revealed by CCTV cameras or eyewitnesses. He said the CCTV footage was blurred.

The statements triggered fresh questions as to who might have tampered with the CCTV cameras at the hotel and what their motive was.

However, The Citizen has established that there are CCTV cameras along a stretch of Haile Selassie Road, which was used by kidnappers.

Our investigations have revealed that at least four residences close to the hotel along the road heading to Masaki, where kidnappers allegedly fled to, had been installed with security cameras capable of capturing images of vehicles passing along Haile Selassie Road.

Yesterday, a security guard at apartments close to Colosseum Hotel, who asked for anonymity, told The Citizen that shortly after the kidnapping, police arrived at the apartments overlooking the hotel and collected data from security cameras, which made it possible to identify the car used by the kidnappers.

"Police came here on the same day of the abduction. I was on duty that day. When they realised that they couldn't get useful images at the hotel, they came here, took what they wanted and left." The apartments are on the opposite side of the hotel, about 100 metres from the establishment. The Citizen sought to know if police used security cameras at nearby buildings to help identify the kidnappers and the car used.

Mr Mambosasa admitted yesterday evening that they had to use images from security cameras installed at nearby apartments, believing they could help in investigation. He confirmed that footage taken from the hotel was "not very helpful".

According to police, security cameras at the hotel did not capture clear images and might have been tampered with. "The footage we took from the hotel is blurred, and that's why we decided to seek images from cameras at nearby apartments," Mr Mambosasa said.

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