Mistaken identity theory as mother and three children die in suspected arson attack
Three arrested in connection with earlier killing of man in his twenties
The scene of a house fire at Wood Hill, in the Spinney Hills areaof Leicester. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA
The family of a Dublin-based consultant neurosurgeon murdered in a house-fire in Leicester yesterday morning could have been wrongly targeted for a revenge attack after a stabbing in the East Midlands city hours before.
Mrs Shehnila Taufiq, an Islamic teacher in her forties, died along with her sons Bilal (15), Jamal (17), and her daughter Zainab (20).
The news of the brutal attack at the family’s terraced home in Wood Hill in Leicester was broken in the early hours to Mrs Taufiq’s husband, Mr Muhammad Taufiq Sattar.
He has spent Monday to Fridays working in Dublin as a consultant neurosurgeon in Beaumont Hospital and two private clinics in the city for the last five years.
The rest of his family had moved to Leicester for Islamic education.
A man in his twenties was badly injured late on Thursday afternoon in Kent Road about a mile away from the Taufiq’s home in a disturbance said to have involved nearly two dozen youths. He died hours later in a hospital in the city.
Within hours, Leicester police were making links between the two incidents, though locals believe that if they are connected then the family, described as “quiet and studious”, were wrongly targeted.
Late last night police said they had arrested a man and two women in connection with the killing of the man in his 20s. The three are all aged 19.
It seems the fire is the result of arson. Forensic examinations were still under way late last night.
Neighbours spotted smoke coming from the house shortly after 12.30am, though they were unable to rescue the four people inside, who were found dead by fireman in an upstairs bedroom.
Still numb yesterday afternoon, neighbours told of how they had heard Mrs Taufiq screaming: “Please save my children” as the flames took hold.
One, Mohammed Ali, a 19-year-old student who lives a few doors away, said locals had thrown stones through the windows to try to help the family to escape.
“I saw the stairs engulfed in flames, everyone was screaming. It was like something from a horror movie,” he told reporters.
“All the windows were on fire. The smoke went everywhere; everyone was panicking and trying to help. But they couldn’t.”
The family had moved to Leicester to be near the Jame Mosque in the East Midlands city, which has one of the best records for community relations in Britain.
One of the mosque’s leaders, Hashim Bahadur, said Mr Sattar was “a very quiet man who is very reserved”, who came to the mosque every time he was home from Ireland.
“The reason why they moved is he wanted his children to obtain some Islamic education. The family were very religious,” he told reporters.
Even though full details are not known, the Wood Hill fire has raised fears of sectarian tensions, with local senior police officers calling on all to keep calm.
“I understand the level of concern there may be in the city and would ask things not to escalate,” said assistant chief constable Roger Bannister, who urged locals to communicate with the police.
“Local people are devastated. It’s hard to believe that such a tragedy could occur and four lives could be lost in minutes,” said a local imam and a member of the Muslim Council of Britain, Ibrahim Mogra.
“The mother was a scholar and clearly they were a family that was into religion and education and were held in very high esteem by the local community,” he said.
In a statement, Beaumont Hospital said: “The board and staff of Beaumont Hospital have learned, with shock, of the tragic loss suffered by our colleague 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.”
Local Labour MP Keith Vaz met Mr Sattar yesterday shortly after the surgeon had flown in from Dublin.
“He was grief-stricken but he was surrounded by family and friends from the local community.
“I conveyed to him that the city is united in sharing his grief and all our thoughts are with him.”