Edmonton police investigate thefts from burnt-out South Hamptons condo complex
Watch above: If being displaced after Monday’s condo fire wasn’t devastating enough, some South Hamptons residents have become victims of theft. Shallima Maharaj spoke with one woman who says not only has the fire left her gutted financially, it’s left her family’s future in Edmonton completely up in the air.
EDMONTON – Less than a week after fire tore through their homes, several South Hamptons condo residents have reported thefts from their vacated suites.
Acting Detective Michael Keef with the Edmonton Police Service says seven residents had reported thefts by Sunday afternoon, but he believes there will be more coming forward.
By Monday, police said eight complaints of thefts had been received.
“Most of the items are small items that could be taken quickly and [are] easily concealable. Things like iPods, jewellery, watches,” said Keef.
The total value of the allegedly stolen items reported to police was between $80,000 and $100,000 as of Monday.
The Edmonton Police Service says it is continuing to investigate these complaints.
The massive blaze heavily damaged several suites in the four-storey west Edmonton building, causing an estimated $10 million damage. The building’s 400 residents were evacuated.
“When so many people are evacuating a building like that anyone can go in without being noticed and there’s a lot of chaos going on,” Keef explained.
READ MORE: West end condo blaze causes $10M in damages
Residents were allowed to quickly return home in 20-minute intervals Thursday to grab any belongings they could.
Hala Al-Musawi, whose family moved to Edmonton from the Middle East just over a year ago, says when she and her husband went inside their home they couldn’t believe what they saw.
“The last thing I would have thought of is what I saw when I walked into the bedroom, and that was my jewellery box empty on the dressing table,” she explained.
“Everything I had was in that jewellery box. Everything. And that is over $40,000 in value.”
Al-Musawi says in her culture, every gift that’s given is in the form of gold and jewellery. She says about 25 years of gifts were in her jewellery box, adding the theft is about more than just the monetary loss.
“The sentimental value of our loss is enormous.”
“I have gifts that have been in the family for a long time. I have custom-made jewellery. I have designer jewellery from my mom, my wedding ring, my wedding gifts.”
— Shallima Maharaj (@ShallimaGlobal) July 27, 2014
Dennis Begoray, a member of the South Hamptons condo board, says around-the-clock security has been in place since the site was turned over from Edmonton Fire Rescue Services earlier this week. He says Belfor, the restoration company, is in charge of the security.
On Monday, Belfor Property Restoration issued a statement, saying in part:
“We have collectively been doing everything in our power to protect the site and provide safe entry to the residents in an orderly manner to assess and retrieve their contents.
“Safety is our first priority… With regards to the thefts that have been reported, we will work with the Edmonton Police Service and assist in their investigation as required.” (Read the full statement below).
After falling victim to theft himself, Begoray says he is demanding more security resources be brought in.
“We’re told that those resources will be on site as soon as possible, including a guard dog, just to ensure that everyone’s property is safe guarded. It’s completely unacceptable, what’s been going on.
“I share the outrage of the owners who have lost a lot more,” Begoray continued. “It’s kind of a jarring experience after going through a lot of loss.”
Any residents who are missing belongings are asked to contact police.
Fire investigators have determined the fire was started by a cigarette that was improperly put out in a flower planter.
With files from Shallima Maharaj, Global News.
© Shaw Media, 2014