A body found in a vacant lot in the Montreal borough of LaSalle Wednesday is that of a cab driver who disappeared overnight Sunday, Montreal police confirmed Thursday.
The case is being investigated as the city's 29th homicide of the year.
Thursday morning, police found 64-year old Mohammed Nehar-Belaïd’s taxi in a cul-de-sac in the Montreal suburb of Côte Saint-Luc.
Investigators are searching the car for clues to Nehar-Belaïd's Sunday night disappearance.
The cabbie’s family said he never returned home following an overnight shift.
A couple stumbled across the man’s body lying in an empty lot at Wanklyn Avenue and Des Oblats Street, Wednesday morning.
"I noticed half exposed body… under a carpet and I noticed wound marks on the back and at that point we called 911," said Andrew Desrochers, who was walking home from the convenience store with his wife.
"I’m pretty accustomed to seeing this sort of thing on TV," Desrochers said. "I guess it really hasn’t sunk in yet how I feel just as of yet."
Police have also released surveillance video from a de l'Église Street Ultramar gas station in Verdun that shows a man driving Nehar-Belaïd's cab around 2:20 a.m. Monday.
"Investigators are looking for information concerning this man and are trying to meet with him because he is considered an important witness in this case," said Montreal Police Const. Anie Lemieux.
Police confirmed Nehar-Belaïd’s credit cards were used
Nehar-Belaïd was a cab driver with Champlain Taxi. He often picked up clients at the Côte-Vertu Metro Station where other taxi drivers reported assaults earlier this fall.
Champlain Taxi president Gregory Sitaras said Nehar-Belaïd’s death has frightened a lot of his drivers.
"The drivers right now they have nothing to say," Sitaras said. "They're all scared and they're all shocked."
Though he said he believes Montreal is generally a safe place to work, Sitaras said the company may now consider additional security measures for its drivers.
Another Montreal cab company, Diamond Taxi, is already fitting its cars with GPS systems and a panic button.
"If in fact some assault situation takes place we can immediately have the authorities on the scene within a very, very short period of time without any delay in communication," said Diamond Taxi director Peter Foster.
The company’s entire fleet will be outfitted with the system by the spring, Foster said.Anyone with information about the Nehar-Belaïd case is asked to contact Montreal police at 514-393-1133.