Gangland enforcer 'stressed' by murder probe when he took fatal drug overdose

Verinder Sharma was under police investigation when he was found dead at his Millbank apartment
Verinder Sharma was under police investigation when he was found dead at his Millbank apartment

A gangland enforcer who killed himself with a drug overdose was “stressed” about a murder investigation into a teenager’s suspicious death in the weeks before he died, an inquest has heard.

Verinder Sharma, 56, was under police investigation when he was found dead at his Millbank apartment overlooking the River Thames in December 2020.

Just over a year earlier, 19-year-old Zac Brettler died after a mystery fall from the fifth floor balcony at Mr Sharma’s property, in a case that has never been sold.

Westminster coroner’s court heard on Wednesday that Mr Sharma took a prescription drug overdose a month before his death, and he told medics about the ongoing police probe into Mr Brettler’s death.

“He was stressed and under pressure as he was helping the police inquiry surrounding a murder case”, a paramedic said, in a statement to the inquest.

Psychiatric nurse Alice Howat said Mr Sharma spoke again about the police investigation while at St Thomas’ Hospital.

“He said it was the first time he had ever taken an overdose, and the reason was ‘my children have abandoned me, I’ve not been able to make contact with them for the last few months, life is not worth living when they are not in my life’.

“He also talked of having an investigation of murder by Charing Cross police station at that time, and he had not been contacted for a court date.”

Mr Sharma, a debt collector with gangland ties who was known as ‘Indian Dave’, was discharged from hospital after the first overdose, despite pleas from his daughters Matisse and Dominique that he would try again to kill himself.

They said their father became aggressive when binge drinking, which had led to periods of estrangement, but he could also be “charming”, would not tell the truth about his suicidal intention, and may take a second overdose when he got home.

Hospital staff were also told that Mr Sharma had been struggling mentally after the recent deaths of seven member of his family and friends.

The court was told the daughters’ dissent over the plan to discharge him was not recorded in his medical notes, while a nurse from the alcohol care who spoke to him a few days later did not read his records before making a follow-up call and was unaware of his suicide attempt.

However the inquest was also told that Mr Sharma could not have been detained at hospital, as he had mental capacity, was denying suicidal thoughts, and was physically fit enough to be discharged.

Mr Sharma was found dead by his daughters at his luxury apartment on December 20, 2020. He had earlier sent messages saying “goodbye” and threatening suicide, before taking a second drug overdose.

An inquest into Zac Brettler’s death concluded with an ‘open verdict’ in 2022 (Courtesy of Brettler Family)
An inquest into Zac Brettler’s death concluded with an ‘open verdict’ in 2022 (Courtesy of Brettler Family)

Mr Brettler’s parents Matthew and Rachelle attended the inquest on Wednesday, and have been pursuing answers over their son’s death in November 2019.

The teenager, a former private school pupil in Mill Hill, had become obsessed with wealth prior to his untimely death and had taken to posing as the son of a Russian oligarch with the alias Zac Ismailov.

He had confessed to a friend that he was in danger and facing threats, and he had also reportedly searched online for “witness protection UK”.

On the night of his death, Mr Brettler had reportedly been with Mr Sharma and Akbar Shamji, the son of a millionaire Conservative donor.

Mr Sharma had sent a message that evening saying he had been “heating up knives and clearing up blood”, as well as another missive which read: “Sh*t’s about to go wrong”.

Mr Brettler’s apparent jump from the apartment balcony was captured on a CCTV camera at the MI6 headquarters on the opposite side of the Thames at 2.24am on November 28.

Mr Shamji, who is said to have been in talks with Mr Brettler over a potential business deal, was reportedly interviewed by the Met Police along with Mr Sharma, but neither faced any criminal charges.

An inquest into Mr Brettler’s death concluded with an “open verdict” in 2022, after evidence was aired that he struck his hip in the fall before going into the water and then drowned. He had also suffered a broken jaw, with the cause of the injury remaining undetermined.

His parents have spoken out to criticise the Met Police investigation, and are adamant that their son was not suicidal and had been making future plans.

The Met Police said in a statement: “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.”

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox ruled that Mr Sharma took his own life by suicide.

She also said that there had been “shortcomings” in his medical care, but there was no evidence that this had contributed to his death.