Saima Ahmed: help sought after Edinburgh remains identified

DETECTIVES investigating the mysterious death of a woman on the outskirts of the Capital believe the Edinburgh public could hold the key to the riddle.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 26th February 2016, 11:24 am
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2016, 4:59 am
Saima Ahmed. Picture: Police Scotland
Saima Ahmed. Picture: Police Scotland

The grisly find, which was unearthed in a patch of woodland between the grounds of the £4 million Gogar Mount House and Gogarburn Golf Club, has stumped detectives and her family. Now officers are appealing to taxi drivers, train commuters and tram passengers for possible sightings of Saima – who is thought to have travelled up from London by rail – to establish how she found herself in Gogar, close to the A8 Glasgow Road.

Last month’s grim discovery sparked a major police operation as detectives used forensic techniques and DNA analysis to trace the identity of the body, with the search spilling over on to Gogarburn Golf Club.

Yesterday, officers revealed the remains belonged to 36-year-old Saima, from Wembley, who was reported missing by her family in August last year. Her death is currently being treated as unexplained. But the mystery has only deepened – as the close-knit family of Saima, a part-time librarian and shop worker, insist she had no connections to Edinburgh and no reason to be in the city.

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Saima Ahmed on CCTV. Picture: Police Scotland

Police Scotland has now launched a massive UK-wide appeal for information as they seek to solve the enigma of her final hours. Officers insist that while there is no evidence of criminality, they remain “open-minded” about her fate. But efforts to crack the case will be fraught with difficulty.

A former top murder squad detective told the News that human remains left out in the open could deteriorate into a “semi-skeletal” state within a matter of weeks.

He said the warm, humid weather over September and October last year – combined with the fact the body was found in woodland – would have quickened the process of decay, making officers’ jobs “much, much harder”.

And he revealed the “scattering” of bodies by foxes and other animals was another “very common” obstacle detectives would be up against.

Saima Ahmed. Picture: Police Scotland

Saima, who is described as around 5ft 5in tall, of medium build and with shoulder length straight dark hair, is believed to have travelled up to Edinburgh by train on Sunday, August 30.

The divorcee, who lives with her mother, father and brother, had been expected at Brent Civic Centre – where she was working part-time as a librarian – but failed to turn up.

Instead, carrying only a small handbag, she left her Oakington Manor Drive home at 8.30am and walked to Wembley’s High Road, where she was captured on CCTV at 9.57am.

Here, she withdrew on undisclosed sum of money at an ATM outside Natwest Bank. Her remains would later be found with her handbag and cash nearby.

Saima Ahmed on CCTV. Picture: Police Scotland

At 10.08am, she was snapped on CCTV entering Wembley Central Railway Station, and just ten minutes later had boarded a London Overground service bound for Watford Junction. Officers believe she got off the train at Watford Junction and boarded a service to Northampton at 11.06am, though they stress this is not confirmed. Her exact route up to Edinburgh after this point remains unknown, but detectives think she travelled to Hemel Hempstead, Birmingham and then on to the Capital.

Saima was last seen wearing a dark long v-neck top, black trousers, black shoes and a black jacket.

In piecing together her movements, detectives said the “passage of time” had been their biggest stumbling block.

It is believed CCTV footage from Edinburgh Waverley – which could have proved vital in confirming Saima’s arrival in the Capital – has been deleted. A spokesman for the station declined to confirm how long footage was usually kept.

Saima Ahmed. Picture: Police Scotland

Officers are now calling on anyone who remembers seeing Saima or who may have spoken to her to come forward.

They described the 36-year-old as a “quiet-living woman who was much loved by her close-knit family” and who “very much adored her nieces and nephews”.

And they revealed the possibility she had travelled up to Edinburgh to meet someone was “clearly a line of inquiry”.

But they declined to go into details over the condition her body was found in. Detective Chief Inspector Martin 
MacLean, head of crime operations for Edinburgh CID, said: “I have met personally with Saima Ahmed’s family and have passed my condolences to them at this tragic and extremely difficult time. I have given them a commitment that we are doing everything we can to establish why Saima travelled to Edinburgh and the exact circumstances that led to her death.

“Clearly there are a number of matters and facts we have yet to establish and it remains a mystery to Saima’s family why she travelled to Edinburgh.

“I want to hear from anyone who saw her in Edinburgh, or who can help explain how she made her way to the Gogarstone Road area, whether by tram, train, taxi, private hire car or any other means.”

In a statement issued through Police Scotland, Saima’s family described her as a “very loving and caring person who was part of a very close family”, and said they were “extremely saddened and shocked” by her death.

Her parents, sister and two brothers launched a frantic bid to find her after she went missing last year. On January 5, her brother Sadat Ahmed wrote on Facebook: “We have tried everything to find her and are very worried about her. We just want to know she is safe.”

To help jog memories, police are reminding the public that Saima went missing on the penultimate day of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Fight Song by Rachel Platten was at the top of the charts and We Are Your Friends had opened in cinemas.