Dubai: They may not be famous like the actors in the American crime-thriller television series CSI. But, Dubai Police officers live the compelling life of investigators all the same, delving into curious cases including murders, accidental deaths, tower blazes and any number of bizarre cases that, at first glance, sometimes defy explanation.
Take for example the case last April when detectives from Dubai Police were called upon to investigate the grisly scene of a worker’s body lying mangled inside a cement mixer in Jebel Ali.
Was it a murder? Or, was the death accidental?
Captain Eng Dr Mohammad Ali Al Qasim, Director of the Forensic Engineering Section in the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology at Dubai Police, told Gulf News that three Emirati experts and nine assistants work to solve such mysteries.
Captain Al Qasim said that when the police experts checked the accident scene, they were able to quickly sum up that the worker had been cleaning the mixer blades from inside earlier in the day. It turned out that the deceased man had forgotten to follow safety procedures, which mandated that he should let others know that he was working inside. A colleague turned the mixer on inadvertently leading to the tragedy.
“His coworker came and thought nobody was inside and turned the mixer on. Our investigation showed it was negligence, not an intentional act,” he told Gulf News.
Fires and other accidents demand constant monitoring by the Dubai Police forensic squad almost on a daily basis, Captain Al Qasim said. “We are working behind the scenes to solve the mystery behind any fires and accidents. We recorded 397 fires and 35 accidents this year. Most of the incidents were caused by mistakes and only six fires were set deliberately,” he told Gulf News.
From the Nassima tower incident involving a crane collapse to the most recent Torch tower fire, Capt Al Qasim and his men gather evidence and issue reports to identify what may have led to such accidents for the prosecution to finish their investigations.
Captain Al Qasim said that fire risks can’t be ruled out during the summer due to the soaring temperatures and personal mistakes but the main cause of fires in Dubai towers is the carelessness of some in discarding cigarette butts from balconies or smoking shisha or setting up barbecues in residential buildings.
“Many fires are caused by a cigarette butt thrown from a high floor and then winds blow it back to a balcony in the lower floors and it can cause fire after some time with proper conditions. People should use an ashtray to extinguish the cigarette rather than throw it from above,” Captain Al Qasim said.
He recalled an incident more than two years ago when a cigarette butt thrown from the sixth floor landed in the back of a pick-up truck and led to the vehicle being gutted in a residential area in Dubai.
He urged everyone to install cameras if they were living in high-rises so that the CCTV footage would come handy to identify anyone causing a fire. “When experts identify the reason behind a fire was a cigarette butt, then its hard to identify the person who threw it. With cameras, we can check the recording and identify the person who caused the fire. Most fires registered are done by unknown persons,” he added.
First Lieutenant Khalfan Humaid Khalfan, a fire expert in Dubai Police, said some people leave shisha pipes or burn coal fires on their balconies and this is very dangerous. “Even if you throw water on coal, then it can blaze again. Don’t throw the shisha coal in garbage and don’t think a cigarette butt can’t start a blaze because it can with proper condition like hot weather and flammable materials,” First Lt Khalfan told Gulf News.
Capt Al Qasim said they had only registered six deliberate fires and accidents this year, which is 1.8 per cent of the total number of fires and accidents in the emirate.
“People use fires to erase evidence of crimes or for revenge. Sometimes labourers have started blazes as revenge over non-payment of salaries or, in case of a murder, killers seek to erase evidence, but our experts can always get to the truth,” First Lt Khalfan said.
Dubai Police warned of warehouse fires as they recorded 12 fires in warehouses this year due to hot weather and bad storage practices.
“Warehouse fires are huge and happen always because of bad storage as they store the boxes until they reach the roof and become close to lights or any source of heat. The most difficult fire for fire experts is the warehouse fire as it needs a long time to investigate and check the evidence,” Capt Al Qasim added.
Car fires accounted for 40 per cent of the total number of fires registered by the department and police said such incidents occur because of modifications and poor maintenance of vehicles.
“We had a few fires this year because of people inhaling butane lighter gas inside a closed car and then lighting a cigarette and the cars exploded,” First Lt Khalfan said.