MARINE MYSTERY

Police confirm identity of skeleton in diving gear

Moroccan family with tragic past denies that Abdelaziz Elfayafi was simply trying to emigrate to Europe

On July 2, 2013 the occupants of a yacht called Yaiza made a horrific discovery some 40 miles off the coast of Calpe, in the Mediterranean Sea: a skeleton, still in a neoprene suit, complete with diving mask and fins. The body was carrying a backpack with three objects inside: a cellphone, 540 euros in cash, and a passport made out to one Abdelaziz Elfayafi, born on January 8, 1989 in Imzouren, a Moroccan city located in the Rif region.

But the body was so decomposed that it was impossible to know whether the diver was the owner of the passport or not.

Two months of police work and a DNA test have solved the mystery. The young victim was, in fact, Abdelaziz, the Civil Guard have confirmed. His sister, Farah Elfayafi, has also stated that the body belongs to Abdel, as he was known to his family and friends. He was buried on Sunday in Boukidan, the Berber village of 15,000 residents where he lived with his parents, Hafida and Hammadi.

At 21, Farah has already buried two siblings; another five remain. The family's nightmare began in 2011, when their 27-year-old son Mohammed, a university professor, was found dead inside his apartment. "He died of natural causes, because he had a heart condition," explains Farah. Then, in June 2013, it was Abdelaziz's turn.

The victim had degrees in computer administration and accounting; he spoke four languages — Arabic, French, English and Dutch — and loved swimming, music, sports and travel. He was also pursuing a course in humanities at Oujda University. He had performed clerical duties at a couple of businesses, one of which is owned by a relative, and had been looking for a job in the months leading up to his death.

He was looking for a job but did not need money; he was a good diver"

The last person who saw him alive was his mother, on May 27. "He left the house like any other day, and said he was going to Tangier," explains his sister. "A while later he called home and told her that he was at the port of that city because of a project."

His sister believes that Abdel may have gone to Tangier because he was planning to start a business there with his older brother Ahmed, who lives in Belgium. The brothers were considering the possibility of importing spare car parts to Morocco. But the plan certainly did not involve Abdelaziz jumping into the sea in a diver's suit.

"I think there is a secret behind my brother's death," says Farah, who is now taking care of her distraught mother. "She says that nothing matters to her anymore, but in time she will forget. Such is life."

Abdel's sister rules out drugs. "I know what it might look like, but he wasn't like that," she holds. "He was an extraordinary guy, very good with computers, and shy — he didn't talk much. He was looking for a job but did not need money, and he was a good diver. We all are, because we were born right by the beach."

At first the Civil Guard thought he might have been an immigrant trying to reach Spanish shores by sea, but Farah disagrees.

In any case, nobody knows what Abdelaziz was doing out at sea with 500 euros in his backpack. The reason for his death is not clear, either, although the Spanish police are citing natural causes.

"Spanish authorities gave us no information, they just said that since the body showed no signs of violence, they would not be investigating any further," says Abdel's brother Ahmed, who has decided to launch his own investigation.

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