Death of Dublin-based doctor’s wife and children in UK treated as murder

Woman and three teenagers who died in Leicester fire regularly visited father in Ireland

Local residents near to the scene of a house fire at Wood Hill, in the Spinney Hills area of Leicester. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Local residents near to the scene of a house fire at Wood Hill, in the Spinney Hills area of Leicester. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 18:20

The wife and three teenage children of a man who is currently working in a Dublin hospital have died in a Leicester house fire, which is being linked to a murder which took place in the East Midlands hours earlier.

Police in the UK have said they are treating the deaths as murder.

Eye-witnesses to the blaze in the Wood Hill district in the English city today described flames “shooting” up from the two-storey terraced property, where coming from the house of Wood Hill during last night’s blaze.

Police have cordoned off the red-brick property for forensic examination: “Police were called at around 12.35am this morning by the fire service following a report of a fire at a house on Wood Hill, Leicester.

“On attendance it was reported that occupants were still inside the property and four people were found deceased in upstairs bedrooms. The fire, which caused extensive damage to the property, was extinguished by the fire service,” said Leicester Police.

The BBC reports that police are “unable to rule out” the possibility that the fire was linked to the murder of a man in his twenties in Leicester city centre yesterday evening, who died in hospital hours after he was attacked.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Cure, who is leading inquiry into the man’s death, said this morning: “Our investigation is in its very early stages and we are currently carrying out a number of enquiries to try to establish what has happened.”

Today, the local Leicester Mercury newspaper said the victims, described as a “humble, spiritual and learned family”, have been named locally as mother Shehnila Taufiq who was in her 40s, and her teenage children, Zainab, Bilal and Jamal Sattar.

Ms Taufiq’s husband, Dr Taufiq Sattar, is understood to have been in Dublin where he works at Beaumont Hospital , at the time of the fire. Family friends, who asked not to be named, said he had flown back from Ireland early this morning, the Mercury reported.

Mrs Taufiq’s neurosurgeon husband, Mohammad Sattar, is believed to be en route home from Ireland where he works.

Neighbours of the family reacted with disbelief to the idea that they could have been intentionally killed .

A middle-aged man, who did not want to be named, said: “I didn’t know the family personally but I knew of them and they were a very nice family. “Most people feel this was meant for somebody else and they got the wrong house. “The family were very well-educated. He was a brain surgeon in Ireland and he brought his family over here to study Islamic literature.

“The lads were very pious and one of them was memorising the Koran and was on the ninth chapter.”

Describing the blaze, the witness said: “I was in bed at about midnight and I heard all the commotion and thought it was drunks or whatever, and then I heard shouting. “The guy opposite broke the door down but the fire was so intense they couldn’t get in.

“They were throwing bricks at the windows at the top of the house to alert them inside but I think it was too late. “The fire was very intense and you could feel the heat of it across the road. “The neighbours tried their level best but it was too severe.”

Beaumont Hospital

Mr Taufiq is a consultant neurosurgeon and has been working in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and with private hospitals in the city, the Blackrock and Hermitage clinics. His family lived with him for a number of years before moving to Leicester.

A statement issued by Beaumont Hospital this afternoon said: “The Board and staff of Beaumont Hospital have learned, with shock, of the tragic loss suffered by our colleague Mr Taufiq Sattar. We wish to express our sincere condolences to Mr Sattar and assure him that our support and thoughts are with him at this terrible time.

Colleagues at Blackrock and the Hermitage also expressed their sympathy. “Colleagues and friends at Blackrock Clinic and Hermitage Clinic have expressed their shock at the fire in Leicester earlier today that tragically took the lives of our dear colleague’s wife Shehnila and children Zainab, Bilal and Jamal,” they said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Sattar at this most difficult time.”

Among friends and neighbours who paid tribute at the scene was teacher Mohammed Qasim Manjra. Mr Manjra, who taught Jamal history at a nearby independent Islamic school, said: “He was a very sociable kid and we are very sad that he has gone. “It’s a very big shock for the community.”

Prominent in Dublin Muslim community

The family is originally from Pakistan and have had a home in Ireland for at least 15 years. It is understood Mr Sattar’s wife was a qualified doctor but was not working.

The family, who were prominent figures in the Muslim community, were all together about a month ago when they spent the festival of Ramadan in Ireland.

The children moved to the UK with their mother about five years ago for Islamic education which is not available in Ireland but returned regularly to be with their father at the family home in the Castleknock area of the Irish capital. Dr Ali Saleem, of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, said the family had planned to reunite in Ireland after the children finished their education. “They were a very friendly family and a very peaceful family, and very highly educated. The children were very promising children,” he said. “He has all that taken from him now and he is left alone in his life. “I believe he needs a strong faith to live with this tragedy. Everybody is really sad. People do not believe it. It’s the worst news for him to hear in his life.”

Dr Saleem spoke highly of the children, saying they had recently memorised the Koran, a rare achievement for Muslim children brought up in Ireland. mfl

Dr Ali Saleem, of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, said the family had planned to reunite in Ireland after the children finished their education.

“They were a very peaceful family, and very highly educated. The children were very promising children,” he said.

“He has all that taken from him now and he is left alone in his life,” Dr Saleem said. “I believe he needs a strong faith to live with this tragedy. Everybody is really sad. People do not believe it. It’s the worst news for him to hear in his life.” ends

Additional reporting PA