Woman abducted in Wasaga Beach, Ont. was attacked weeks earlier, cousin says

A woman who police say was abducted by three men impersonating police officers in Wasaga Beach, Ont. earlier this month was also attacked in a separate incident just weeks before she was taken, her cousin says.

Family pleading for tips from public as police continue to search for 37-year-old Elnaz Hajtamiri

Ontario Provincial Police say Elnaz Hajtamiri, 37, was abducted from a Wasaga Beach home on Wednesday, Jan. 12 by three men wearing police gear, but not actual police uniforms. (Submitted by the Hajtamiri family)

A woman who police say was abducted by three men in Wasaga Beach, Ont. earlier this month was also attacked in a separate incident just weeks before she was taken, her cousin says.

On top of that, 37-year-old Elnaz Hajtamiri had reason to believe she was being watched after tracking devices were found on a car she had been leasing, according to her cousin.

Those are just some of the new details Hajtamiri's family is sharing about her life in the period before she went missing. The family is working with investigators and pleading for help from the public as police continue to search for her, 16 days after she was taken.

"It's been devastating ... The family has been kind of crushed by this," said the cousin. "It feels as if [our] lives have stopped in this moment."

CBC News is not identifying the cousin, who lives in the U.S., out concern for her safety. 

2 violent attacks

Hajtamiri's cousin said the first attack happened on the evening of Dec. 21, when two masked men jumped Hajtamiri in the parking garage of her Richmond Hill condo building, and violently beat her with a frying pan. York Regional Police confirmed to CBC News that investigators have been "actively investigating" the assault.

"That [attack] had caused a massive gash in her head. She had about 35 to 40 stitches. It was quite gruesome," the cousin said.

The cousin also said in the course of their investigation, police found a tracking device attached to Hajtamiri's car — and it wasn't the first time that had happened.

Two tracking devices had previously been discovered underneath her Lexus by workers at a dealership, the cousin said, when she brought it in for service.

"That is obviously very jarring for her. She was terrified for her life," said the cousin.

CBC News has not been able to confirm details on the trackers, but has independently confirmed her car was serviced around the time of the attack.

Elnaz Hajtamiri, 37, is pictured here with her late husband Farnam Shapourifar. Police say Hajtamiri was abducted by three men from a home in Wasaga Beach, Ont., on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Submitted by the Hajtamiri family)

According to the cousin, the first attack left Hajtamiri so shaken that she went to stay with relatives at a home on Trailwood Place in Wasaga Beach, which is a small town on the southern shores of Georgian Bay approximately 145 kilometres north of Toronto. 

That's where she was abducted by three men who were dressed in police gear and claimed to have a warrant to arrest her on Jan. 12 around 8:30 p.m., investigators with Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said last week.

Det.-Insp. Matt Watson said the suspects overpowered the homeowner and abducted Hajtamiri, then took off in a white Lexus RX SUV.

"They forced entry into the home and overwhelmed the family and basically dragged Elnaz out barefoot in the freezing cold snow," her cousin said. "[The men] took her watch and her cell phone, threw it in the snow. She was obviously screaming at this time, and then there was a period of silence after that."

The cousin is asking residents with security cameras in the neighbourhood where Hajtamiri was abducted to check their footage for any trace of the white SUV.

Family believes she is still alive

The cousin wouldn't say if the family has any indication why Hajtamiri may have been targeted, or if they have any theories about who her attackers may be.

"Elnaz was a very, very wonderful person with high moral integrity and standards, and we have no reason to believe that she was involved or connecting with anyone that had any criminal activity," the cousin said. "We believe that she is still alive because we don't have a reason to believe otherwise."

OPP officials told CBC News they have no further updates on the status of the investigation.

Elnaz Hajtamiri, 37, is pictured here with students at a school she helped fund in Iran. Police say Hajtamiri was abducted by three men from a home in Wasaga Beach, Ont., on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Submitted by the Hajtamiri family)

Hajtamiri, who also goes by the last name Tamiri, is described as five feet, three inches tall, with a slim build and shoulder-length black hair.

She was born in Iran and came to Canada in 2018, and found work in the import-export shipping industry, according to a press release from the family, but she recently left her job to focus on building a cake-making business. The release said she also volunteered for charitable organizations.

She married a veterinarian named Farnam Shapourifar when she was 25, but he died in 2017, according to the release. The family says Hajtamiri used their savings to help build a school for young girls in an impoverished village in Iran in honour of her late husband.

OPP investigators have established a dedicated tip line for the case at 1-833-728-3415, and are asking the public for any information that could help locate Hajtamiri.

With files from Greg Ross and The Canadian Press