Family of 18-year-old found dead outside Saskatoon gym hopes surveillance footage will provide answers

Syed Nasir Shah says video footage shows when his son, Syed Sheraz Ahmed, stepped out of a Saskatoon gym on Oct. 6, nothing seemed wrong. Ahmed was found dead in his car outside the gym that night. (Kayla Guerrette/CBC - image credit)
Syed Nasir Shah says video footage shows when his son, Syed Sheraz Ahmed, stepped out of a Saskatoon gym on Oct. 6, nothing seemed wrong. Ahmed was found dead in his car outside the gym that night. (Kayla Guerrette/CBC - image credit)

The family of a young man found dead in his car outside a Saskatoon gym say they don't believe he died of natural causes — and they want to see video footage that they hope will help answer some of the questions they have around his death.

Syed Sheraz Ahmed — who would have turned 19 on Oct. 29 — was found dead in his car on Oct. 6 outside a gym where he had been working out that evening.

The family says police have told them he died from natural causes and that charges made using his debit card the morning after his death are not connected with his death.

But the young man's family says they're not convinced.

"[Police] recently showed us pictures of a masked person who made the three transactions on my son's stolen debit card to buy gift cards at a Shell gas station," said Syed Nasir Shah, Ahmed's father.

"Police should look into that person's location."

Submitted by Syed Nasir Shah
Submitted by Syed Nasir Shah

Ahmed left home around 5:30 p.m. CST on Oct. 6 for Fit4Less gym, near Confederation Mall. When he did not return by 7:30 p.m as usual, the family grew worried.

After several calls went unanswered or were cancelled, which his mother has said was unusual, she went to the gym around 9 p.m. She saw Ahmed's car parked nearby, but went into the gym to see if he was there.

She showed a receptionist a picture of Ahmed. The receptionist went into the gym and then returned, telling the mother Ahmed was inside the gym working out, according to Shah.

He says surveillance footage the Saskatchewan Coroners Service later showed the family shows Ahmed working out in the gym earlier, but leaving by about 6:40 p.m.

If Ahmed's mother had known he wasn't in the gym when she went in, she would have checked the car, Shah says.

Staff at Fit4Less declined to comment when contacted by CBC on Thursday. When contacted again Friday, an employee said a manager wasn't available to comment.

'Perfectly all right' when leaving gym

Syed Ali, Ahmed's uncle, said surveillance footage from inside the gym showed Ahmed carrying his wallet and cellphone.

"Initially, the police said Sheraz may have dropped those and someone would have picked it, making it a fraud case rather than suspicious death, telling us not to relate the two, but this proves it otherwise," Ali said.

"If they can track down that person, it will be a useful link to the truth."

The Saskatoon Police Service declined to comment Friday, saying they are waiting for a coroner's investigation to conclude.

Kayla Guerrette/CBC
Kayla Guerrette/CBC

On Thursday afternoon, the Coroners Service showed the family a surveillance video showing the area outside the gym, covering the time from when Ahmed parked his vehicle until he was treated by paramedics, around 11 p.m.

But even after four hours of intently watching every detail, Shah said, they still have questions.

"We haven't figured out anything, as the camera keeps rotating all around and is not clear."

Shah said they could see their son enter the gym, just before 6 p.m., and leave around 6:40 p.m. They could see that the car's headlights were turned on around that point, and remained on for an hour.

"Who turned the car off? It's not automatic," said Shah. "Who cancelled the phone calls? Machines don't lie."

His father says when Ahmed left the gym, "he was perfectly all right, nothing wrong."

"He had no health issues in the past six years. All this makes us suspicious," said Shah. "We're still not satisfied and still want answers."

4-6 months for post-mortem results: coroner

The family was told that the initial pathologist's report didn't reveal any signs of alcohol, caffeine, pre-workout powder or poison, nor did it find any signs of physical trauma.

"A post-mortem examination has been completed; results will be available in approximately four to six months," the Saskatchewan Coroners Service said in an email statement Friday. It continues to investigate, the statement said.

The approximate time of death is presently unknown, the Coroners Service told the family.

The family wants to see the surveillance from the Dollar Tree store next to the gym, which they say would directly show the area where Ahmed's car was parked.

When contacted by CBC, an employee at the Dollar Tree store said they have been in contact with Saskatoon police.

Kayla Guerrette/CBC
Kayla Guerrette/CBC

"When we requested … forensic evaluation, the police re-collected his wallet, car, and water bottle after two weeks. These were given to us a few hours after his death on Oct. 6," said Shah.

"We have no complaints with the police as they have become co-operative, but the process is taking time."

Ali, Ahmed's uncle, said the police didn't listen to the family until the news media covered the story.

"We aren't saying a young man can't die on his own, but when we see other things attached to it, like transactions, missing cards, rejected calls, it's hard to digest that it's … natural death."

The family says they have not touched Ahmed's bedroom since his death, and are waiting for more answers for closure.

'Gem of a person'

Hassan Nasir Kumbhar, who was a friend of Ahmed's in high school and at the University of Saskatchewan, says he saw him at the Fit4Less gym on the evening of Oct. 6. Ahmed told him he had been working out for the past 20 minutes and looked "perfectly healthy," said Kumbhar.

"I talked to him briefly and that's all that happened. He said he will be doing another exercise and I might see him there," Kumbhar said.

"Afterwards I finished my workout and left. I never caught up with him. That was my last conversation with him."

Kumbhar left the gym by 7:50 p.m., and said he did not see Ahmed at that point.

"It doesn't feel real. Sheraz was the best person you could know. We used to study together late at night and he always helped us out. He was always kind to others," he said.

"One day he is there and the next is gone. It's not easy to deal with."

Kayla Guerrette/CBC
Kayla Guerrette/CBC

Syed Khubaib Ahmed had known Syed Sheraz Ahmed for close to a decade and spent many Eids with him. The 19-year-old also shared a class this semester with him.

"Everyone knows Sheraz as a nice guy, never rude to anyone. He was really funny, such a gem of a person," he said.

"He was too young to die from natural causes. It's suspicious. All of our friends are still in shock."