Dubai: On the face of it there’s nothing amiss at the Al Aarti Building on Rolla Street. The shops on the ground floor — a popular bakery, cafeteria, AC repair shop, two laundries and two salons — are open and it’s business as usual. The car park in front is full and traffic on the narrow street — both pedestrian and vehicular — is as busy as it gets on any weekday morning.
The building is open at both ends and the two elevators to the residential apartments are located in the centre. Residents move in and out there’s no telling that a cold-blooded murder took place on the sixth floor just last week.
But scratch the surface and the eeriness is evident. Apartment 608 where the body of a 36-year-old Indian woman was found with her throat slit on September 26, is just adjacent to the elevator. It’s the first flat visible in the long corridor that has 12 apartments — a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms.
The grey door of the ill-fated studio apartment is black and dusty with fingerprint powder, its steel handle tipping slightly downwards. In front is a floral doormat and to the left is a fire safety enclosure.
“This is where it happened,” the watchman told XPRESS. He said he was in police custody until Sunday night for questioning. “I came to know that there was something wrong only at around 1.30pm on that day.”
Apparently the Indian victim, who hails from Tamil Nadu, had not come down to pick up her son, a kindergarten student in a GEMS-owned school, from the school bus. When another woman in the same building brought the child to apartment 608, no one answered the doorbell.
Subsequently, the child’s father, who works with a private firm, was contacted. When he rushed home he found his wife’s body lying in a pool of blood. Jewellery worth about Dh14,500 was reportedly missing.
Shaken residents and shopkeepers in the building refuse to talk about the murder.
“We know nothing, please do not ask us, maybe the police would know,” said a woman on the third floor from behind a latched door.
“I’d rather not comment on anything,” said a woman in the corridor on the sixth floor.
Another neighbour on the same floor said: “It is very scary and difficult to accept. But there is really nothing we can do about it except offer a prayer for the lady.”
Asked whether she had heard any cries on that fateful day, she said: “No. It was only when an ambulance arrived at around 1.30pm that I came to know.
“That day the lady did not go to pick up her child from the bus which arrives at about 12.30pm. ”
While investigations are on, the sheer audacity of the crime has left the community in shock. The questions on their lips: How could a crime so daring take place in such a busy neighbourhood? What is the level of security in most buildings?
As it turns out, Al Aarti is not the only building in Bur Dubai where visitors have easy access. Few buildings have CCTV cameras, fewer still electronic access.
When XPRESS did the rounds of some buildings in the area, residents complained of little or no safeguards.
The 24-hour security that most buildings claim consists of nothing more than a table and chair used by a watchman. Smaller buildings lack even this.
Even where watchmen are on duty, they do not check the entry of strangers or make logbook entries. And they are far from equipped to handle any crises.
“We have one watchman who told us he manages two other buildings. How can one expect security when the watchman is not even available at times?” said Sumit, who resides in a building in the Old Pakistani Consulate area.
“Security is a complete sham. Landlords boast of 24-hour security to jack up the rents. We pay Dh150,000 a year for our apartment. But the truth is anyone can enter our building anytime. We have repeatedly informed the management about salesmen and strangers coming up to our apartments. But no action is taken,” said a resident of a building on Bank Street.
A resident in a building on Rolla Street said: “Only yesterday morning, my cleaner told me about the incident. Now the security guard questions everyone who enters the building. But we wonder how long this would continue and whether it is enough. Every building should be equipped with trained security guards and adequate security gadgets.”