Police offer $100K reward for information in search for woman kidnapped in Wasaga Beach
Elnaz Hajtamiri was forcibly taken by 3 masked men on Jan. 12, 2022
Police are offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with information that will lead to the location of Elnaz Hajtamiri, a year after she was abducted from a home in Wasaga Beach, Ont.
"Her family is grieving her absence and has lived through a year with limited answers," said Ontario Provincial Police Det.-Insp. Martin Graham at a Thursday morning news conference to announce the reward.
"We cannot imagine the pain they are experiencing."
The reward money is being offered through a joint effort by the OPP and York Regional Police.
The OPP have said the 37-year-old was forcibly taken by three masked men dressed in police gear on the night of Jan. 12, 2022, from a relative's house in the popular lakeside town.
The men drove away with Hajtamiri in what investigators believe was a white, 2016 to 2022-model Lexus RX 350 SUV. She has not been seen or heard from since.
"The smallest bit of information, as always, may be able to bring resolution to a family that is distraught and desperate for answers," Graham said, adding that tips can be submitted to police directly or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
Graham also read a statement from Fariba Hajtamiri, Elnaz's mother.
"Nothing weighs more heavily on our souls than the idea that we may never know what happened to Elnaz. We know there are people out there who have information and who may be contemplating coming forward," she wrote.
"We pray that you will do the right thing and help us out of this suffering, and bring justice for Elnaz."
Hajtamiri, who was born in Iran, came to Canada in 2018 and found work in the import-export shipping industry, according to her family. She had recently left her job to focus on building a cake-making business.
Police released composite sketches of two of the masked men, based on details provided by two eyewitnesses to the abduction, as well as brief written descriptions of the trio.
"Though the images are limited due to the suspects wearing masks, please look closely at their eyes and their features. Someone knows these men," Graham said.
All three wore dark jackets over fake police vests, and balaclavas with white trim that they pulled over their noses and mouths, he said. They also had fake police badges chained around their necks.
Graham said he has never been involved in a case like this in his nearly 32 years as a police officer.
" A female, not involved in crime, is literally plucked out of her house, with violence, and nothing has been seen or heard of from her in one calendar year. That is incredibly rare and disturbing," he said.
Another attempted kidnapping just weeks earlier
Only weeks before she was kidnapped in Wasaga Beach, Hajtamiri was assaulted with a frying pan during an attempted abduction in an underground parking lot in Richmond Hill, Ont., in December 2021. She was badly injured during the attack and went to live with family in Wasaga Beach after discussing possible options with police.
Her ex-boyfriend, 35-year-old Mohamad Lilo, was charged with attempted murder and attempted kidnapping in connection with the earlier attack. Two other men, Riyasat Singh and Harshdeep Binner, faced the same charges. Singh eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was deported from Canada last month, according to York police. Lilo and Binner's cases both remain before the courts.
Lilo was also charged with kidnapping in Hajtamiri's abduction in Wasaga Beach. He was not one of the three masked men, Graham said Thursday. CBC Toronto reported in April 2022 that Lilo had hired a private investigator to watch Hajtamiri before she was kidnapped.
Graham would not say if Lilo, Singh or Binner had co-operated with police after their respective arrests. He added that investigators have explored multiple possible motives in the case. Complicating the search for Hajtamiri is that Lilo previously owned a shipping container business that moved containers throughout Canada and the world, Graham said.
When asked if he believes Hajtamiri is still alive, Graham said he did not know.
"My biggest hope is that she is alive. My greatest fear is that she is not."