Parents of teen who posed as oligarch's son before falling from Thames apartment criticise police over investigation

8 February 2024, 15:33 | Updated: 8 February 2024, 15:59

Riverwalk apartment building, Millbank, Westminster, London
Riverwalk apartment building, Millbank, Westminster, London. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The parents of a teenager who posed as the son of an oligarch before plunging to his death from a luxury Thames riverside apartment have criticised police for allegedly missing key evidence during their investigation.

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Zac Brettler, 19, fell to his death in 2019 after spending the evening in the company of gangster, Dave Sharma, and son of a millionaire Conservative Party donor, Akbar Shamji, The Times reported.

CCTV footage and phone records show Sharma and Shamji likely knew the teen had fallen to his death, the publication said.

A surveillance camera at the MI6 headquarters across the river captured the moment Mr Brettler plummeted to his death from a fifth-floor balcony just before 2.30am on November 28, 2019.

Sharma - who is known as 'Indian Dave' - was arrested in 2022 over a heroin-smuggling operation, and was separately linked to the gangland murder of drug dealer Dave King in 2023. King was killed when he was showered in a hail of bullets as he left a Hertfordshire gym.

On the evening of Mr Brettler's death, Shamji had messaged friends, telling them he had been "heating up knives and clearing up blood”, before warning them: "S**t’s about to go wrong."

Now, Mr Brettler's parents, Matthew and Rachelle, both 61, are questioning why the Metropolitan Police failed to question key witnesses - and have accused cops of "victim blaming".

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The parents said police were too quick to accept the theory that their son had taken his own life and jumped from the luxury apartment building.

They said detectives did not interview key witnesses who had direct knowledge of the incident - and did not press either Shamji and Sharma on my they lied to police.

"The omissions are highly suggestive of a degree of incompetence that it's very hard to get one's head around. You think, surely they can't be that bad," Matthew told The Times.

He accused the police of not being willing to do the hard yards to find the smoking gun and properly investigate the death.

The parents said their son became obsessed with oligarchs and huge wealth after attending Mill Hill school - a private institution in north London - where he was classmates with many of their children.

They said he was introducing himself as Zac Ismailov, the son of a Kazakh man and Russian oligarch - despite his mother being a British journalist and father a director of a financial services company.

He reportedly told people his father was dead and his mother lived in Dubai - and was subsequently preventing him from gaining access to his inheritance.

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The parents have since carried out their own investigation and believe their son jumped from the fifth-floor balcony to flee from those in the apartment to try and save his own life.

Four days after Mr Brettler’s body was found in the Thames, police arrested both Shamji and Sharma on suspicion of murder.

Shamji said he could not remember the events of that evening, while Sharma said he was asleep for part of the night - despite phone records showing they had been making calls and sending messages.

Both men were released under investigation as the police inquiry continued and later closed.

A year after Mr Brettler's death, Sharma was found found dead in 2020. The CSP chose not to proceed with charging Shamji with perverting the course of justice.

In a statement, the Met Police said the investigative team "worked hard to explore every possible hypothesis, which were shared with Brettler’s family, but ultimately we were not able to provide fuller answers”.

"The case was also reviewed by specialist homicide detectives to ensure every line of enquiry had been exhausted.

"As with any case, we would always encourage anyone who they believes they have additional information or evidence to contact police. Any new information will be examined on its own merit by a team led by experienced detectives."

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