Cyprus Mail

‘Police doctored traffic report to cover mistakes’

By Angelos Anastasiou

POLICE investigators doctored their report of a car accident in May 2013 in order to cover their own mistakes, documents obtained by the Sunday Mail suggest.

On May 11, 2013, Pakistani student Hafir Muhammad Musawar – or ‘Savvas’ as he has been going by, in that habit Cypriots have of turning hard-to-pronounce foreign names into vaguely similar Greek ones – was on his way back to Nicosia from Paphos.

He had just picked up a friend of his, who had arrived to Cyprus with his wife and baby, and was driving back home. It was about 5 pm and the rain was pouring down.

Near the Latsia weighing station, he crashed into a car parked in the middle lane of the motorway. It’s not clear whether he realised it was there before the crash – visibility was poor, to say the least. What he did see, however, was a police car parked on the hard shoulder, and a woman – later identified as the parked car’s driver – talking to the two officers in it.

Once he made sure everyone inside his car – friend, wife, baby – were not hurt, he got out to figure out what had happened. The woman, distraught and wet, approached him in tears.

“She seemed upset, which could be expected – but she seemed almost too upset, hysterical,” said Hafir.

“She kept crying and saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’,” he recalled.

Her car had broken down right in the middle of the motorway, and she couldn’t get it started again. The crash wrecked Hafir’s car, and damaged hers badly.

“I couldn’t see the car, there was too much rain – and she hadn’t left her hazard lights on, nor that little triangle behind her car to warn other drivers,” Hafir said.

Shortly after the crash, a second police car arrived at the scene. Questions were asked, notes were taken, insurance agents showed up. Hafir and the woman were asked to go to the police station to give a statement.

Hafir realised something was amiss while giving his statement. The officers inside the first police car – parked on the hard shoulder when the accident happened – insisted that they arrived at the scene after the accident.

“No, you were there when the crash happened,” the hapless student corrected. “I saw you.”

One of the officers got loud.

“He shouted at me and told me he could have me arrested,” Hafir said.

A few days later, a police report of the accident made its way to Hafir’s car insurance agency. It was very poorly drafted, mixing up the car registration numbers and offering very little details of the accident’s circumstances. It did reveal, however, that the immobilised car’s owner had not paid the vehicle’s road tax, and was duly fined.

It also claimed that two officers in a police car, on their way to investigate another accident, passed by the scene “shortly after the accident” and were informed of what had happened by the female driver of the immobilised car.

Hafir’s insurance company wrote back to the police, asking them to clarify four points that were either described incorrectly or even omitted from the report.

The first point related to the mixed-up registration numbers, and police were asked to confirm who had been driving which car.

The second requested that the police describe the exact weather conditions at the time of the accident – the report said “rainy weather”, while Hafir had reported a “thunderstorm.”

The third related to the exact time of the policemen’s arrival at the scene – just prior, as Hafir said, or just after the accident, as the police report claimed.

Lastly, the letter asked the police to clarify whether the immobilised car had had its hazard lights on or the reflector triangle behind the car, as no mention of either was included in the report.

In October 2013, a second police report was prepared and forwarded to the insurers.

Although this time it got the registration numbers right, it was still poorly drafted – it claimed both that the immobilised car’s driver had been out of the car at the moment of impact, and that she had been wearing her seatbelt.

But it did address the insurance company’s four points. According to the new report, the weather conditions were, indeed, “heavy rainfall, slippery road, limited visibility,” and the police car that was parked on the motorway’s hard shoulder had arrived shortly before the accident.

And, it said, the immobilised car had had its hazard lights on at the time of the accident, a claim not found in the first police report.

This was a crucial addition, because it implied that Hafir was at fault for the crash as he had failed to see the car’s hazard lights and slow down timely. No insurance would pay for his wrecked car, given such circumstances.

“There were no hazard lights on,” Hafir said confidently.

But why would the police change their report to suit one driver – or insurance company – over another?

“They wouldn’t – at least I don’t think that’s what happened,” one insurance agent told the Sunday Mail.

“I think they were just looking out for themselves. Once they realised a car was stranded in the motorway, protocol would be to ensure the safety of oncoming traffic. They should have immediately parked the police car behind it and turned their blue lights on until they could get it out of the way.”

“They didn’t, and that’s why the first report said they got there after the accident, later changed to that they’d ‘just’ gotten there when the accident happened. That’s also why the hazard lights miraculously appeared in the second report.”

More than a year later, Hafir’s insurance company has yet to receive a claim for the parked car’s damage. It seems that even the woman whose car Hafir crashed into didn’t think his insurance should have paid to repair it.

Hafir has been advised to take to the courts with his case, but it seems unlikely he ever will. He is currently fighting on another front. After completing a bachelor’s and a masters’ degree in business administration, he wants to leave Cyprus – but his college won’t give him back his deposit to pay for his return fare, claiming that because he enrolled at a different college for his masters’ degree, he should be talking to them about it.

Hafir came to Cyprus in 2007 on advice from a friend of his back home, who told him it’s a great place to study in.

“I wouldn’t take his advice now,” Hafir said.

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