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'A complete failure': Lawyer, family say York police didn't do enough to protect abducted woman

Elnaz Hajtamiri was abducted in Wasaga Beach just weeks after she was assaulted in a parking garage in Richmond Hill
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Elnaz Hajtamiri was abducted from her house in Wasaga Beach on Jan. 12, where she had fled following an attack at her Richmond Hill home.

The family of abducted 37-year-old Elnaz Hajtamiri said steps taken by York Regional Police to protect her after she was attacked in a Richmond Hill parking garage were a "complete failure." 

Lawyer Devin Bains, who was retained by the family to aid in the investigation following her abduction in Wasaga Beach last January, said York Regional Police first became involved with the Richmond Hill resident last November when she contacted them regarding an ex-boyfriend who made an unwanted appearance at her building. 

She contacted police a second time when her vehicle leasing company discovered tracking devices on it, Bains said. Her third encounter with police came after the violent assault in the parking garage on Dec. 20, 2021.

Police were called to her building at King William Crescent, in the area of Yonge Street and Bantry Avenue, after a report of a woman being attacked and struck with a frying pan, according to a police release about the incident. The victim was identified as Hajtamiri. 

"We attended and located the victim who received medical attention for her injuries. The suspects had fled the scene in a vehicle.  We began the investigation, which remains ongoing," said Const. Laura Nicolle. 

Police released images of two suspects, both described as males, aged 25 to 30. Nicolle said they continue to appeal for the public's help in identifying the suspects. 

“York Regional Police did some form of investigation and we expect, we hope, had some form of safety plan put into effect for Elnaz. That would be the correct protocol,” Bains said.

He said “any responsible police force” puts a plan in place to protect vulnerable people following an incident like this. 

“It’s the duty of the police to sit down and fashion a plan for the safety of that individual that is focused on the type of danger that they’re facing,” he said. 

Bains said Hajtamiri left her Richmond Hill home to go to Wasaga Beach with the knowledge of police. However, he said any measures to keep her safe obviously failed as she was abducted from that home Jan. 12, 2022.

“The family, just like the rest of the public, is aware that whatever steps were taken to protect Elnaz were a complete failure,” he said. 

He gave the example of having police protection or surveillance outside the home as a further measure that could have been in place, but he said he believes was not. 

“It’s obvious that she wasn’t being watched by police when this event occurred because otherwise it wouldn’t have happened the way that it did,” he said. 

The force has been conducting a thorough investigation and continues working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police, who are leading the abduction investigation, Nicolle said.

"We certainly understand that for a family going through what her family is facing, nothing will be enough until they get the answers they deserve. We will continue to work diligently on this until it can be solved," Nicolle said. 

Both Bains and York Regional Police said they believe the abduction is related to the previous incidents. 

"The incidents are connected as the victim in both incidents is the same person. We have been working closely with the OPP throughout these investigations," Nicolle said. 

Bains said this is how the cases should be viewed and said the family hopes the investigation will provide more answers. 

“The family is hoping that Elnaz is brought back home safe and sound and that police, regardless of failures in the past, are aggressively making an effort to bring her home. They’re also hopeful that they can make efforts that can assist in that process, which is how I come in,” he said, adding that the family is devastated, worried, and terrified. 

He also said there is no evidence to suggest that Hajtamiri is no longer alive and it would incorrect to think that she isn't out there in need of being brought home.