The parents of a public schoolboy who died after plunging into the Thames from a balcony opposite the MI6 HQ have accused the Met Police of ‘victim blaming’ and failing to investigate circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
Zac Brettler, 19, plummeted from a luxury Thames-side apartment development in 2019 – with his fall captured on the MI6 building’s CCTV across the river.
The teenager had become enamoured with wealth during his time at exclusive private school Mill Hill, north London, and had adopted multiple different identities, including that of a Kazakh man, a friend of Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk and the son of a Russian oligarch.
Before the tragedy, Zac had spent the night with gangster Dave Sharma and another man. CCTV and phone records showed the pair probably knew he had fallen to his death, The Times reported.
Sharma – known as Indian Dave in underground circles – had previously been arrested in 2002 for a heroin smuggling operation and was linked to a consequent gangland murder. He was found dead in 2020.
Zac Brettler, 19, plummeted from a luxury Thames-side apartment building in 2019 – where his fall was captured on the MI6 building’s CCTV across the river
He had messaged a friend at 10.30pm saying he had been ‘heating up knives and cleaning the blood’, before adding in a voice note: ‘S**t’s about to go wrong. Wrong!’
The Brettlers only found out about these messages from the police nearly two years after their son’s death and told the force that their son was missing.
Two days before he died, Zac told a friend that someone had threatened his family and searched for information about witness protection on the same day, according to The Times.
The couple, both 61, have accused the Met of ‘victim blaming’ as they say they were too quick to pursue the suspicion that Zac killed himself.
‘The omissions are highly suggestive of a degree of incompetence that it’s very hard to get one’s head around. You think, surely they can’t be that bad,’ Matthew Brettler, the director of a financial services company, told The Times.
‘My major criticism of the police is that there was no smoking gun and that then required them to do the hard yards in terms of detective work and they never showed a real appetite for it.’
The heartbroken parents believe their son jumped from the building in an effort to save himself from what was inside.
They have questioned why detectives did not interview key witnesses who knew what had happened in the run up to his death, The Times reported.
The teenager fell from the fifth-floor balcony of the Riverwalk development in west London in 2019. The block is seen second from right
They deny that he was suicidal – saying he emailed his mother on the night he died about booking a driving test and his overnight bag contained enough clothes to last several days.
And Zac’s mother has described her horror in the wake of her son’s death, as they say they felt isolated in their grief.
‘I was living on that balcony with Zac, in my head,’ she told The New Yorker, who first reported the story.
‘I literally had a stomach ache for months after he died, because you’re having to digest grief.’
Calling himself, Zac Ismailov, the 19-year-old is said to have told new friends that his mother lived in Dubai and he had recently inherited his late father’s fortune.
Mr Brettler was found at the base of the tower block with a broken jaw – the cause of which could not be determined – and injuries to his hip, which smashed into the embankment wall, according to The Times.
Police reportedly only visited the apartment four days after his death – and did not forensically test smears resembling blood on the walls.
Sharma was arrested for murder. He said he had spent parts of it asleep although this was later disproved by a log of calls and messaged, according to The Times.
He claimed that their last night with Zac had been an emotional one, where he had confessed to having a secret heroin addiction, the newspaper also reported.
No trace of the drug was found in his system by the pathologist and his parents deny that he would do this.
Mr Brettler’s fall was captured on the MI6 building’s CCTV across the river
Poplar coroner’s court recorded an open verdict in 2022.
A Met Police spokesperson said: ‘Our sincere condolences remain with Zac Brettler’s family, and we understand the uncertainty about how their son died must continue to be the cause of unimaginable pain.
‘Whenever someone dies unexpectedly in London, we have established policing protocols to follow, and the investigation into Zac’s death was led by an experienced detective.
‘The team worked hard to explore every possible hypothesis, which were shared with Zac’s family, but ultimately we were not able to provide fuller answers.
‘The case was also reviewed by specialist homicide detectives to ensure every line of enquiry had been exhausted.
‘As with any case, we would always encourage anyone who they believes they have additional information or evidence to contact police. Any new information will be examined on its own merit by a team led by experienced detectives.’