Gokada founder, Fahim Saleh, murdered, dismembered body found in US home

Fahim Saleh

Fahim Saleh, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ride-hailing company Gokada, has been murdered inside his home.

Saleh’ s decapitated, dismembered body was found in an apartment in a luxury condominium building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

When detectives began investigating, they found the man’s torso and an electric saw nearby, two law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said.

The man’s head and limbs were later found in the apartment, a Police Department spokesman said.

There were several large plastic bags in the apartment, and it appeared that some effort had been made to clean up any evidence of what had happened, one law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said.

The police did not immediately identify the man, but several friends who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he was Fahim Saleh, a 33-year-old technology entrepreneur and the owner of the condo where the body was found, the New York Times said.

Mr. Saleh’s sister made the gruesome discovery at around 3:30 p.m. when she went to check on him after not hearing from him for a day, the officials said. After finding the body, she called the police, officials said.

The saw was still plugged into an electrical outlet when the police arrived, leading detectives to investigate whether the arrival of Mr. Saleh’s sister at the condo might have interrupted the killing and prompted the killer to flee through another exit, one of the law enforcement officials said.

The medical examiner has not officially determined the cause of death, but police were investigating the incident as a homicide, the officials said.

One of the law enforcement officials said a surveillance camera had captured video of Mr. Saleh in the building’s elevator with another person who was wearing a black suit and black mask.

On the video, the elevator door opens and Mr. Saleh goes into the apartment, the official said. The masked person follows directly behind him, and the two immediately start to struggle, the official said.

The sister is seen on the video arriving a short time later. There is a second way out of the apartment through a service entrance, the official said.

Friends of Mr. Saleh described him as an ambitious man who ran every morning, kept a busy schedule of meetings and often traveled to Nigeria on business. He collected tech gadgets and lived alone with a small dog, Laila, which was found alive in the apartment, they said.

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According to a 2016 blog profile, Mr. Saleh was born in Saudi Arabia, and moved with his family quite a bit before settling in Rochester, N.Y., and, later, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The son of Bangladeshi immigrants, he learned to code and began to develop apps as a teenager, his friends said. After graduating from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., he had early success with PrankDial, an app he invented for making prank telephone calls.

Mr. Saleh’s ride-hailing motorcycle start-up, Gokada, began operating in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2018, and raised $5.3 million in venture capital in June 2019, according to the website Techcrunch. As in many large African cities, motorcycle taxis are common in Lagos because they can zip through traffic-clogged streets.

Mr. Saleh told TechCrunch he planned to use the money to expand Gokada’s fleet and to offer goods and services to its drivers.

“We’re going to start a Gokada club in each of the cities with a restaurant where drivers can relax, and we’ll experiment with a Gokada Shop, where drivers can get things they need on a regular basis, such as plantains, yams and rice,” Mr. Saleh told TechCrunch.

The building where Mr. Saleh’s body was found, at 265 East Houston Street near Suffolk Street, is a 10-story, glass-and-brick structure that is among the high-end residential buildings that have risen in recent years in an area once defined by its tenement housing stock.

Condos in the building feature Italian marble kitchens and master baths, white oak floors and asking prices in the $2 million to $2.5 million range, according to the real website StreetEasy. The website Curbed noted in a 2017 article about that access to the building’s units was via a private, keyed elevator.

On Tuesday evening, detectives and officers, including some with the Emergency Service Unit’s canine team, had the corner at East Houston and Suffolk Streets cordoned off.

As some officers stood in front of the building, another led a German shepherd back and forth near the building, with the dog sniffing at garbage bags and a side entrance.

Reporters and cameramen stood on Houston Street and across from the building on Suffolk, while patrons sat in the outdoor dining area of a Suffolk Street bar called Subject sipping drinks as more officers arrived.

Leslie Feinberg, who owns the bar with Brian Grummert, said that as “a nosy neighbor,” she had walked over to take a look when police cars, ambulances and fire trucks converged on the apartment building several hours earlier.

“I saw a young woman in hysterics” in the lobby, Ms. Feinberg said.

“From my understanding, she found the victim,” Ms. Feinberg said, adding that men whom she took to be detectives had led the young woman from the scene.

Ms. Feinberg said she had come to know many of the building’s residents during the three years she has operated the bar. She described them as mostly well-off professionals in their 30s and 40s.

Word spread quickly that something bad had happened in the apartment building, she said.

“This neighborhood is very tight-knit,” she said. “It seemed within moments everybody knew what was happening.”

Her own reaction, Ms. Feinberg said, was “total shock.”

“You kind of forget New York City is New York City sometimes,” she said.