Met Police criticised for ‘lack of investigative work’ after teenager’s fatal fall from balcony

Zac Brettler died in 2019 after spending the evening with a gangland debt enforcer and a millionaire cryptocurrency trader
Zac Brettler died in 2019 after spending the evening with a gangland debt enforcer and a millionaire cryptocurrency trader

The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for the “lack of investigative work” it put into the case of a former public schoolboy who fell to his death from a luxury riverside apartment.

Zac Brettler, 19, leapt to his death from a Thames-side apartment development in 2019 after spending the evening with a gangland debt enforcer and a millionaire cryptocurrency trader who believed he was the son of a Russian oligarch.

Mystery surrounds the case after a coroner recorded an open verdict and new details regarding the teenager’s final hours came to light in recent days.

Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, told The Telegraph that a review of the investigation was now required.

He said: “My heart goes out to Zac’s family. The open verdict recorded at the inquest reflects the seeming lack of investigative work that should have been done in this case, including a forensic examination of the scene at the time.

“There are many unanswered questions here and it merits a further review.”

Brettler’s final moments were captured by a CCTV camera at the headquarters of MI6, which lies directly across the Thames from the apartment complex from which he jumped.

In the footage, he comes out onto the balcony, looks over both sides and then leaps from the centre.

The Riverwalk luxury apartment block in London from which Zac Brettler fell to his death
The Riverwalk luxury apartment block in London from which Zac Brettler fell to his death - JAMES VEYSEY/SHUTTERSTOCK

That night, Brettler had spent the evening in the company of businessman Akbar Shamji and gangster Dave Sharma, who owned the flat.

Sharma, a notorious gangster, had been arrested over a heroin-smuggling operation in 2002 and was later linked to an ensuing gangland murder.

Both men were arrested on suspicion of murder but neither was ever charged. Sharma later died in 2020 in the same flat from an apparent drug overdose.

Mr Shamji, who is now based in the US, has been approached for comment.

They both gave accounts to police which were seemingly contradicted by phone and CCTV evidence.

The glass fifth-floor balcony from which Brettler leapt had seemingly been wiped clean, and police crime scene pictures published by The Sunday Times show blood-like smears which were never tested.

Brettler met the two men after pretending he was the son of a Russian oligarch who would one day have access to vast amounts of money.

Using the name Zac Ismailov, he is said to have told people that his father had died and that his Dubai-based mother was blocking access to a sizeable inheritance.

Brettler’s parents’ theory is that their son jumped to escape after the two men discovered he wasn’t telling the truth.

They believe he had become trapped with a dangerous gangster, Sharma, who had suddenly realised he had been led on by a teenager who was, for reasons that are unclear, pretending to be richer than he was.

The Brettlers, who live in Maida Vale, west London, have spent the four years since trying to find out what happened to their son on the night of Nov 29 2019.

‘Police should be held to account’

Matthew and Rachelle Brettler, both 61, previously told The Telegraph that there was “nothing in Zac’s life that ever suggested anything suicidal”.

They added: “As public servants, in whom we vest our confidence and faith to carry on investigations on our behalf when bad things happen, [the police] completely failed.

“That’s what has been driving us. Some light needs to be shone on the police and they need to be held to account.”

Last week, Brettler’s parents were the subject of a long feature by Patrick Radden Keefe, the journalist.

After spending months talking to the family, he concluded that one man provided a “farcical” account of the night in question, and detectives failed to investigate properly.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the Met said it did not have anything to add to its original statement, in which they said: “The team worked hard to explore every possible hypothesis, which were shared with Zac’s family, but ultimately we were not able to provide fuller answers.”

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