Sources describe the millionaire tech entrepreneur’s killing as an apparent targeted murder that was ‘interrupted’
The decapitated and dismembered body of Pathao co-founder Fahim Saleh has been found — sorted in large plastic bags next to an electric saw — at his apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in New York.
The 33-year-old’s sister made the grisly discovery in the apartment around 3:30pm local time on Tuesday during a welfare check and called the New York Police Department (NYPD), reported different New York media outlets.
An official of the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC told Dhaka Tribune that they were aware of the incident. The New York consulate is looking into it and a detailed briefing will be given in the morning (local time), the official said.
Pathao, which Fahim co-founded in Bangladesh with Hussain M Elius and Shifat Adnan in 2015, in a media statement also expressed deep shock and mourned his untimely passing.
According to the New York Post, sources described the killing of the Bangladeshi-American millionaire tech entrepreneur as an apparent targeted murder.
A law enforcement source said the crime scene looked like a “professional” killing because almost no blood was left behind and the apartment was not looted.
Meanwhile, another source said that it looked like the killer was “interrupted.” “It didn’t look like the perp [perpetrator] was done.”
The Post reported that Fahim was last seen on surveillance footage around 1:40pm Monday, when he entered the elevator which opens right out to his seventh-floor apartment in the 10-storey luxury condominium building on 265 East Houston Street.
The footage from the building also showed the suspected killer carrying a bag, waiting to enter the elevator with Fahim, sources said. He gave the suspect a puzzled look during an exchange as they rode up together.
As soon as Fahim stepped out into his apartment, the male suspect was seen attacking him, media reports said.
Both New York Times (NYT) and New York Daily News reported, citing sources and the footage, that the attacker was wearing a suit, wearing gloves, a hat, and a black mask. He was also carrying a bag or a suitcase.
The way Fahim fell immediately after he walked out onto his floor, suggests he might have been either shot or stunned, said the Daily News report.
‘This is ugly’
Fahim, a website developer-turned-venture capitalist, bought the East Houston Street condo at $2.25 million and moved into it late last year, media reports said citing records.
His friends told NYT that he collected tech gadgets and lived alone with his dog Laila, which was also found alive in the apartment.
Quoting a law enforcement official, NYT also reported the saw was still plugged into an electrical outlet when police arrived, leading to the theory that the arrival of Fahim’s sister might have interrupted the killer and prompted him to flee through another exit.
Later, police were seen questioning a sobbing woman — who sources identified as the sister — in the building lobby, reports The Post.
She had found Fahim’s headless torso exposed in the apartment’s living room alongside the plastic bags when she went to check on him Tuesday after not hearing from him for a day, media reports said quoting sources.
Local resident Danny Faust told The Post: “She was screaming when she first came down.”
Fahim’s arms and legs below the knees were removed, and all body parts were found in the plastic bags, NYPD officials said. However, very little blood was found on the scene.
Quoting one official, NYT reported that some effort had been made to clear up evidence.
“This is ugly,” The Post quoted a policeman as saying at the scene.
No motive behind the gruesome murder was ascertained at the time, media reports said quoting an NYPD spokesman, while detectives were waiting for fingerprint and forensics tests.
Officials said the medical examiner was yet to officially determine the cause of death, but the incident was being investigated as a homicide.
Detectives took his sister to the 7th Precinct station house later on Tuesday night.
‘Smart, ambitious, and kind’
Media reports said Fahim Saleh was born in July 1986 to his Bangladeshi immigrant parents in Saudi Arabia. His father Saleh Uddin is originally from Chittagong.
The family, including his two sisters Rif Saleh and Ruby Bashir, had moved quite a bit before settling in Rochester and later in Poughkeepsie.
Fahim had learned to code and started developing apps as a teenager. After graduating from Bentley University in Massachusetts, where he studied computer information systems, he had early success with an app for making prank telephone calls, named PrankDial.
Apart from Pathao, Fahim was the CEO of ride-hailing motorcycle start-up Gokada in Lagos, Nigeria, which he co-founded in 2018. He most recently oversaw its transition to delivery service during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also launched the venture capital firm Adventure Capital in New York in 2018, media reports said.
Talking to Daily News, two friends, who were at the 7th Precinct to check on Fahim’s sister, described him as a self-made millionaire who brought tech companies into nations like Nigeria and Indonesia, an energetic person who had a passion for gadgets and video games.
“He was extremely smart, ambitious, very kind,” the female friend said. “Always smiling.”
They said they believed Fahim was targeted, but he never acted like he was worried about anything.
The male friend said: “I hope they find that person [the killer].”
“We used to call him the Elon Musk of the developing world. He was like the Energizer bunny,” a long-time friend told The Post.
As the news of Fahim’s brutal murder spread, many took to social media to pay tribute to the young tech entrepreneur on Wednesday.
Pathao CEO and Co-founder Hussain M Elius on a Facebook post said: “I am shocked and saddened to hear the reports of the death of Fahim Saleh, one of the founding members of the Pathao team.
“Fahim believed in the potential for technology to transform lives in Bangladesh and beyond. He saw the promise in us, when all we had was a common purpose and a shared vision. He was, and will forever remain, an incredible inspiration for Pathao and our entire ecosystem.”
Elius also told Dhaka Tribune that he was not in regular contact with Fahim, since he sold his shares in Pathao and left the company in 2018.
“The last time we talked was last year when we only exchanged greetings,” he said.
Meanwhile, asking not to be named, one Pathao official said: “Fahim was very passionate about information technology. He was always trying to come up with new ideas and projects to ease people’s lives through technology.
“Fahim was an icon and he is irreplaceable. He encouraged hundreds of Bangladeshi youths to become entrepreneurs through venture capital and launching start-ups,” the official said.
Syed Almas Kabir, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), told Dhaka Tribune on the phone: "This is a big loss for us. Bright young people like him elevated our whole industry.
"We share Pathao's success story internationally often to show Bangladesh's potential. And Fahim's strong international network contributed to Pathao's international success undoubtedly."
"Fahim's work didn't just benefit Pathao or his companies, but it benefitted the whole IT industry in Bangladesh."
Dhaka Tribune's Shohel Mamun, Tanjir Rahman, Ibrahim Hossain Ovi and Saqib Sarker contributed to this report