Shima's disappearance: Is she really lost at sea?

It is common practice for small dingy vessels to travel between Kadhdhoo island of Laamu atoll to Maamendhoo island of the same atoll after nightfall. No major incidents have been reported during such trips between the two islands. However, last Friday around 9.30 pm, the police publicized a news alert that a small dinghy traveling from Kadhdhoo to Maamendhoo capsized en route, leaving one out of the two passengers aboard unaccounted for.

The ill-fated boat capsized in the choppy waters near Gaadhoo island, an island vacated by its inhabitants about two years back, and Six Senses Laamu Resort. According to the news alert, Aminath Shima, 19, was lost at sea. Ibrahim Fazeel, 24, who was traveling to Maamedhoo with Shima reached shore safe and sound.

After the news alert

According to news reports following the police announcement, Ibrahim Fazeel was driving the boat carrying both himself and Shima to Maamendhoo island after she arrived at Kadhdhoo Domestic Airport from capital Male'. It was reported that Fazeel traveled to Kadhdhoo to receive Shima on her arrival to transport her to her island, Maamendhoo. It was also reported that after the boat capsized, Fazeel handed Shima a mobile phone and an empty petrol tank to hold on to, before swimming off to Six Senses Laamu to seek help and alert the Coast Guard. While the search for the missing girl continues, the police have launched a special investigation into the happenings around the incident.

At this point, I would like to pose a question- Did Fazeel go to Kadhdhoo to receive Shimaa? Or did they meet in Gan island? Was it pre-planned that the both of them would rendezvous in Kadhdhoo or Gan when she arrived from Male'? - I leave these thoughts with you.

When the news of Shima's disappearance started developing, several members of the public raised questions regarding the incident. As the news gained momentum in popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the suspicions regarding the incident also escalated. At that time, not much details regarding the incident were known. The police then revealed that they are investigating the case while the public was already raising suspicions that there was something shady about the incident.

Shima's family continues to implore that there was foul-play regarding the incident. Since the incident came to light, several different accounts and versions, backed by even more different facts and rumors have been in circulation.

The police are conducting their investigation, while search operations continue on sea, land and air. While none of the operations have thus far brought about a fruitful result, it is safe to say a "conspiracy theory" surrounds the case, with a large number of people questioning if Shima is really lost at sea indeed.

22nd February, Friday

Shima is a young 19 year old mother of an 18-month old baby. Never married before, Shima's child is looked after by her mother. On the fateful Friday, Shima traveled from Male' to Kadhdhoo alone.

Shima's mother, Shirumeenaa Ahmed said her daughter quit her job at the resort she was working at and went to Male'. She then traveled to Gan island via domestic flight, and was received by her friend Fazeel who then took her to Kadhdhoo, an island connected by land to Gan.

A five year age gap exists between Shima and Fazeel. One would wonder if the relationship between the two "friends" is just friendship and nothing more. This question has been answered on Facebook by some medias - look it up.

However, some medias have cited her family members and said the relationship between Shima and Fazeel is strictly platonic. This is what is being said by her mother: "Fazeel is an old friend of Shima".. "Her two younger siblings are also acquainted with Fazeel".

Shima caught an early morning flight to Kadhdhoo but missed the ferry between Kadhdhoo and Maamendhoo that afternoon. She then went to Gan.

"She went to Kadhdhoo in the early morning flight. She then met Fazeel in Kadhdhoo", said Sharumeena.

According to Shima's mother, Shima stayed at an "accommodation provided by Fazeel" until she left the island that evening.

"I do not where where in Gan they stayed at. When she missed the afternoon ferry, she called me and told me she missed the ferry and that she will come home with Fazeel in a dinghy later that afternoon" said Shirumeena.

Now here is the strange part - There is no ferry that operates between the islands on Fridays.

Gan is the largest island in Maldives, with three different official wards: Mukurimagu, Maradhaa and Thundi. There is also an additional "city" inhabited by residents of Mundoo, Kalhaidhoo and Ga. Dhiyadhoo. It is unknown in which area Shima stayed at between meeting Fazeel and departing to Maamendhoo. We have not been able to contact Fazeel for clarification.

After staying in Gan island, Shima sent a text message to her mother saying "we are sailing now". There was no news from Shima after that until the point at which the family received the news that the dinghy had capsized, and was notified that Shima was missing. This is the point at which we have to revert back to our pondering: Did Shima really depart from Gan island?

The day and its weather

22nd February 2019 falls on a Friday, which again falls on the 6th "Nakaiy" of the "Iruvai" monsoon. According to the "nakaiy", the sea was expected to be very smooth and calm. The weather during both day and night was expected to be pretty normal - not too rough, not too smooth, but just about right. Wind blew from South to West at 9 miles per hour. No torrential currents, but slight currents pulling towards the island every now and then.

While the dinghy capsized near Gaadhoo island and Six Senses Laamu resort, until now, there has been no news of Shima from either islands. The make ad model of the dinghy the two people traveled in is unknown. Supposedly, the engine installed on the dinghy has a horsepower of 3hp. It is entirely possible that a dinghy may capsize even in such weather conditions. But it is only possible depending on the make, model and design of the dinghy, and the strength and power of the waves. However, it is highly unlikely that a dinghy may have capsized in the conditions present at the time of the incident. If not, several reports of such incidents should have been recorded in the past.

Unanswered questions

Shima and Fazeel were traveling in a 6 foot dinghy when the boat capsized. Did it really capsize? If so, where is the fibre dinghy? Why would they decide to travel in such small vessel after night fall?

Shirumeena said she was told that the dinghy departed from Kadhdhoo and took the route furthest from Gaadhoo island. Meaning the dinghy would have been traveling around Gaadhoo island instead of taking a more direct and faster route. We now have to ask again - why did they choose the most difficult route , especially at night when an easier route already existed? This is the question asked by Shima's mother, and several residents from Laamu atoll.

The people who claim there's foul play show this argument: How did Fazeel swim to the resort after the dinghy capsized? Why didn't they make use of the mobile phone on hand to call for help? When the dingy was overturned but still afloat, why didn't they hold on to it? Why did Fazeel leave a helpless Shima alone in the sea in the dead of the night and swim off? Why did Fazeel empty a petrol can and give it to Shima to hold on to in such a difficult situation where the boat had already capsized in supposedly rough waters? Why was the graphics designed by AVAS's graphic journalist inconsistent with the route Fazeel claims to have swum? Why are there discrepancies with the forecasted weather and current and what was reported by Fazeel?

Some people rationalize that Shima was pulled by the current. But in that case, how was Fazeel able to prepare the petrol vessel to give to Shima in that strong current while Shima, who couldn't even swim, stayed put? How was Fazeel able to get past the "strong currents" he speaks of to reach the resort?

Shima's mother disclosed that it was reported that Fazeel reached the resort after whatever took place on the sea and called a friend of his upon reaching the resort. The coast guard was contacted by his friend, says some rumors. There are so many versions of the same event that its mind-boggling.

Why would Fazeel ask his friend to contact the coast guard instead of making the call himself? Nearby Gaadhoo island was recently deserted, won't it be worth it to take another thorough look in the island just in case?

Shima's mother said when she got news of the incident and was made aware that Fazeel's phone was with Shima, Shima's younger sibling tried calling the number twice but there was no answer. On the third try, the call was rejected, giving a busy signal after ringing a few times. After that, the phone was not reachable and switched off.

While there is no progress in tracing Shima after her disappearance, there has not been a trace of the bright yellow plastic oil can that would be visible to the naked eye from far off. While the coast guard, family and friends and other well wishers are combing through the land and leaving no stones unturned diving deep into the sea, there has been no luck thus far in locating Shima. While it seems as if everyone but the police and MNDF are pointing fingers and making allegations, convinced of foul-play, the search still continues with important questions left unanswered.

Again I ask:

Is Shima really lost at sea?