In what police are now calling a hoax, a 22-year-old who claimed to have been kidnapped has been found.
In a Saturday afternoon phone call with a friend, Furqan Muhammad-Haroon told a harrowing tale.
The 22-year-old Scarborough engineering student, speaking from behind the wheel of his Mazda van, said he was being tailed by three men, one of whom had a gun.
His van was found soon after. Its keys were inside, while Mr. Muhammad-Haroon was not. Also missing was the thousands of dollars in cash he’d withdrawn in preparation for a trip to the United Arab Emirates that evening.
Police began an investigation into what was initially described as an abduction, but the case took puzzling turns early on.
Mr. Muhammad-Haroon had recently been charged with stealing a green plastic recycling bin stuffed with hard drives and other computer equipment from the office of his former employer, IBM Canada.
Teary-eyed family held a press conference on Monday, appealing for information in the abduction of their son, who had no criminal record.
Still, police remained tight-lipped. They had nothing to support the claim of abduction, and were said to be growing doubtful about the incident.
Tuesday evening, Toronto police announced that Mr. Muhammad-Haroon had been found safe in St. Catharines, Ont.
A police source said the devout Muslim was located near a mosque, although Ezeldin Ebadalla, past president of the local Masjid Al-Noor Mosque, said he had not heard of Mr. Muhammad-Haroon.
Police now say the abduction was a hoax, and have charged Mr. Muhammad-Haroon with mischief.
“Ah, that changes things,” Shahzad Siddiqui, a lawyer who had been speaking on behalf of the family, said last night when told of the charge. Mr. Siddiqui was asked earlier in the day whether the theft charge and disappearance were related. “We don’t know if it’s unrelated or not,” he said.
Mr. Muhammad-Haroon is to appear in a Scarborough court Wednesday on his mischief charge, and in Newmarket next month on the theft charge.
His uncharacteristic disappearance had stirred alarm among relatives and friends, who described him as a model student.
“If there is some hoax or some kind of extenuating circumstance, it would be very difficult for the family to accept that,” friend Firaaz Azeez said earlier in the day. Told last night of Mr. Muhammad-Haroon’s discovery, Mr. Azeez was relieved.“That’s incredible news. … I’m elated and happy he’s safe,” he said. “In terms of how we got here, obviously there’s a lot to be said in the next few days."
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
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