Wednesday 13 December 2017

Five arrested over fire that wiped out family of surgeon

Dublin-based consultant who lost his wife, daughter and two sons says he deeply misses loved ones and hopes that 'justice will prevail'

HUNT FOR CLUES: Police search near the scene of the house fire in Leicester that claimed the lives of a mother and her three children.
HUNT FOR CLUES: Police search near the scene of the house fire in Leicester that claimed the lives of a mother and her three children.
Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar
Jamal Sattar

matthew Cooper, John Fahey, Ed Carty and Sam Griffin

FIVE people have been arrested in connection with a suspected arson attack in England that claimed the lives of four members of the same family.

Leicestershire Police said three women aged 19, 20, and 27 and two men aged 49 and 19 were detained yesterday over the killer blaze.

News of the arrests came minutes after Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar spoke of his pain at the loss of his wife, daughter and teenage sons in the fire at their home in Wood Hill, Leicester.

In his statement to the media, made after special prayers were said for his family at his local mosque, Mr Sattar said he hoped justice would prevail.

The doctor, who works as a neurosurgeon in Dublin, also thanked members of the community for supporting him since the deaths of his "beautiful wife, daughter and sons".

Summoning the courage and strength to speak publicly for almost two minutes only a day after learning of the deaths on his return to the UK, Mr Sattar said: "All of you know of the tragic incident in which my entire family has passed away.

"I deeply miss my beautiful wife and three beautiful children.

"What has happened has happened and nothing can be reversed, but I hope justice prevails and in future this should not happen to any family in the UK."

Thanking the police for their work in investigating the blaze, Mr Sattar added: "The people of Leicester have been very supportive.

"A real big thanks to the police department in Leicestershire for their good work and the media for being patient and understanding the pain which I am going through at present.

"I am also thankful to the local mosque – they made me feel that despite losing my entire immediate family, the entire community in Leicester is family to me."

Shehnila Taufiq, who was in her 40s, died with her 19-year-old daughter Zainab and sons Bilal, 17, and Jamal, 15, in the fire early on Friday.

It is feared that the family's property was targeted by mistake in a revenge attack following a fatal assault in nearby Kent Street.

Inquiries have found no evidence to suggest anyone who lived at the house was involved in any way with the earlier incident.

Leicestershire's Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister said in a statement: "While we are investigating links between the two crimes, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that those who died in the fire, or indeed anyone else who lives in that property, was involved in the assault in Kent Street.

"Because of the close proximity – in terms of time and location – of the two incidents, it is right that we look at whether there are links between the two crimes.

"However, at this stage in our investigations we have found nothing to suggest that the residents of the house devastated by the fire had anything to do with the Kent Street incident."

A man and two women have been arrested in connection with the murder of the man who was attacked in Kent Street.

Before making his statement to the media, Mr Sattar also spoke to around 1,500 worshippers during prayers at the Jame Mosque in Spinney Hill.

Describing his "passionate" speech to the congregation, Imam and teacher Muhammad Uwais told reporters: "He said that he has been comforted by the condolences received from the community in Leicester and throughout the UK and abroad.

"He said he had come to Leicester in 2007 after being impressed with its community and its educational system.

"He was adamant that he will not sit in a corner but carry on his family's mission of being good representatives of their faith, and he urged the congregation to do the exact same."

In Dublin, Dr Ali Selim of the Islam Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh said the children had moved to England with their mother four or five years ago to study religion further, and believed the intention was for the children to become teachers of Islam and to return to Ireland.

"They only moved to the UK four or five years ago for the sake of study," he said. "The children were studying there but the plan was to come back to Ireland.

"The father is a medical consultant, the mother is a doctor. So what would you expect the family to be? They were very clever and very smart children."

He said the children were devoted to the study of Islam, and added that their success in learning to recite the Koran, despite not speaking Arabic, was almost unheard of in this country.

"Very recently, the children made a remarkable achievement, which was the memorisation of the whole Koran by heart," said Dr Selim.

"Their father wanted them to have more Islamic education because I think his plan was to have them as teachers of Islam.

"They were very devoted to their faith. The Koran is almost the same size as the Bible and, for a child to learn that book by heart, they need to be really devoted to this job, but they managed to learn the whole Koran and they didn't speak one Arabic word."

Dr Sattar has been working in Beaumont Hospital and at the Blackrock and Hermitage private clinics. Colleagues there expressed their sympathy.

The family is originally from Pakistan and had a home in Ireland for at least 15 years.

The children frequently visited their father here, and had celebrated the festival of Ramadan in Dublin last month.

Dr Sattar founded an Islamic prayer centre in Castleknock, where the family lived.

Yesterday, hundreds of mourners descended on the Hawah Community Centre to pay their respects to a "most humble man".

"He set this up three years ago and was so dedicated to it. He was working in hospitals but somehow still had time to set this up and keep it going," said close family friend Mujahed Omer.

"He loved this place and loved to see Muslims from all over coming together and praying. He was already looking at establishing a new centre and had already got the land.

"We think the plan was that his sons would study in England, then return here and would run that new centre."

Dr Sattar would often travel to England at weekends, Dr Selim said. "The father is very active in the Muslim community, so people would know him very well," he said."

The children's mother was described by Dr Selim as a "well-educated" woman who wanted the best for her children.

Sunday Independent

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