Family pays tribute to 'charming' Qatari boy killed in 'racist' attack

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The Independent Online

The family of a teenager from Qatar who died in a suspected racist attack in East Sussex has called for the killers of their "charming, lovely boy" to be brought to justice.

Mohammed al-Majed, 16, was assaulted by a white gang outside a takeaway restaurant in Hastings on Friday night. He was taken to hospital in south London, but died the next day – apparently from head injuries.

The boy's family flew to Britain from Qatar after being informed, and were due to return last night with his body. Before leaving Britain his father, a wealthy businessman, said he hoped the culprits would be brought to justice. He said: "Mohammed was a young student who was loved by his family, friends and teachers. He was a charming, lovely boy and there is nothing that can replace our loss. Justice has to be done in this investigation. All of those involved in committing this crime, on a young, innocent 16-year-old boy should be punished."

Abdul Aziz, 17, who was Mohammed's room-mate at EF International Language School, in Hastings, said that his fellow students were in shock. "We cannot believe something like this could happen. We will never come back here," he said.

Mohammed lived in Hastings but had been in Britain for only five weeks. He was studying English at the language school and was due to return to Qatar this weekend.

The teenager hit his head on the pavement during the assault and received a serious head injury, detectives said yesterday. Witnesses said that the teenager was with a group of friends when they were attacked by a gang of white youths, who hurled insults at them before pelting them with bottles.

The takeaway owner, Remzi Tanriverdi, said that moments before the fatal attack he had told a couple of passing police officers to watch a group of white youths who were hanging around outside his restaurant.

"I asked them to keep an eye on the boys, and they said they would – then left," he said. "Less than an hour later, Mohammed had been beaten to death. There are no words that can describe the horror of what happened. The attack seemed unprovoked and without reason."

Four local men have so far been arrested in connection with the incident, three of whom have been granted bail pending further inquiries.

Every year, between 30,000 and 50,000 foreign students visit Hastings to study at one of its many language schools. Inspector Martin Mann, who described the assault as an "isolated incident", said that police frequently liaised with the schools to warn the short-term students about which potential trouble spots they should avoid.

Detective Chief Inspector Graham Pratt, who is leading the investigation into the student's death, said the incident began as a verbal assault before escalating into a physical one.

He said: "Mohammed, I believe, was trying to make his way away from the incident and has fallen and struck his head on the pavement. We need to try to find the exact circumstances of how this came to be. Clearly much of the investigation will seek to establish to what extent race played a part in what happened to Mohammed," he added.

The teenager's death was one of five fatal incidents over the bank holiday weekend involving teenagers and young men. Dmitri Foskin, 24, was shot dead in Birmingham, while Charles Junior Hendricks, 18, was knifed to death in Walthamstow, east London.

Marlon Morris, 21, died in hospital after being stabbed in Wolverhampton city centre, and Dominic Barritt, 18, died of head injuries after being assaulted in Walton, Essex.