Family tell of shock at father-of-five’s mysterious death at sea

Juma Salem Al Danhani, a fisherman, disappeared and then seems to have been taken hostage.

Juma with his mother Nasem Al Bashier and son Mohammed. He had wanted to earn enough money to buy his children school uniforms. Reem Mohammed / The National
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FUJAIRAH // Emirati fisherman Juma Salem Al Danhani kissed his five children goodbye and left to try to earn enough money to buy them school uniforms. It was to be the last time they would see him alive.

The 37-year-old set sail from Ajman Marina into the Arabian Gulf on July 25, a Saturday, but by Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed his family that he was dead.

His widow is still unsure of the circumstances surrounding his death. It appears that the Fujairah resident had been taken hostage by other fishermen, who had demanded money from the family.

“He left early on Saturday, July 25, after the Eid break hoping to collect enough money to buy school uniforms and new bags for our kids. He kissed us goodbye and told us to take care,” his 35-year-old Russian widow, Raizat Sirazhudinova, said.

Al Danhani called her when he arrived at Ajman Marina and told her that he would call back again once he was at sea.

“He calls or sends a text message almost every two hours but he didn’t that day – he called only when he arrived and told me that he will call again after he sailed but he didn’t for about six days,” she said. “I was worried. I had been trying to call his cellphone but it was out of reach so I informed his brother. He called the boat owner and was told that everything was OK.”

Al Danhani contacted his family on Thursday, July 30, from a foreign phone number. He said he needed money to buy food and clothes.

“We received a text message from a number telling us that he is Juma and we should call him, so we called. He sounded weird and unnatural, using the loudspeaker with the sound of other men around him,” said Afaf Al Danhani, 33, his sister. “He asked us to send him Dh1,000 to buy food and clothes. We tried to find out what was happening but he was uncomfortable speaking to us.

“We told him we would send the money and he asked us to send it to another man called Ali because he’d lost his phone and national ID in the water.”

Khalil Al Danhani, 27, Juma’s brother, sent the money to “Ali” on Friday, hoping it would get to his older brother. He said: “We called Juma several times after we sent the money but we lost contact with him. Then, on Saturday, he told his wife that this would be his last call.”

Ms Sirazhudinova said: “I called the number on Sunday but the guy said that Juma is dead.”

Salem Al Danhani, 56, Juma’s father, said that on Monday officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed his son’s death.

“My son filled in a police report about Juma’s disappearance last Sunday at Ajman police station and the coastguards said that they didn’t receive any signal from any boat regarding any issue,” said Mr Al Danhani.

“We went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi and they informed us that Juma is dead and that we need to do some paperwork to bring his body back to the country. We don’t know what happened exactly and we need the body to find the cause of death.

“Juma was a very kind man and he never had any problems with anybody. His family meant the world to him.”

On Thursday night, the family headed to Dubai airport to receive Juma’s body.

Ajman Police would only confirm that a brother of Al Danhani’s, Obaid, reported him as missing on Sunday, August 2, and that standard missing persons procedures were followed.

rhaza@thenational.ae