Grief-racked grandfather in plea to catch killers

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The Independent Online

An Asian father who lost a son, a daughter and five granddaughters in an arson attack on Sunday appealed to his community yesterday to help catch the killers.

Speaking in Urdu, apparently still in shock after what he called a "murderous attack", Abdul Aziz Chishti named his dead children and grandchildren one by one as his remaining daughter, Siddiqah Aziz, wept at his side.

Mr Chishti was among four adults who survived the blaze at the family home in Huddersfield early on Sunday. Neighbours said they saw several Asian men throwing what appeared to be petrol bombs at the house before it went up in flames. Police said they have discovered a motive for the attack, and they have been given names of suspects in anonymous phone calls. But Mr Chishti said witnesses must come forward and give evidence.

"My family and I have been the victims of a murderous attack on my house," he said. "We have suffered an enormous tragedy in which I have lost my daughter and five granddaughters aged from six months to 13 years. I have also lost a son. I hope the community will join me in praying to Allah for those who have left us. May they all go to Heaven.

"I have come here today to seek help from the community but especially the Pakistani community whom I feel must have information that will help the police to find the people responsible for murdering seven members of my family.

"I appeal to the community, community leaders, mosque committees and the imams at all the mosques to encourage anyone who may have information to contact the police."

Mr Chishti, 65, thanked the community for its support and added: "This has been very much needed and appreciated at a time when we have been emotionally destroyed by that terrible murderous act, which has taken the lives of seven innocent members of my family, especially the young girls who had all their lives before them."

As he spoke, Siddiqah Aziz broke down and had to be led away by a police officer.

Seven local Asian men are being questioned by police but Detective Superintendent Bob Bridgestock, who read out an English translation of Mr Chishti's appeal at a press conference in Huddersfield, said he was not ruling out other arrests. He would not say what motive for the attack had been discovered.

"Give us the evidence," he said. "A number of names have been given to officers anonymously and that's a good start, but the people who gave us those names have other information. Give us the evidence we need to continue taking this inquiry forward. I appeal to people to break their silence. In particular, I am appealing to a number of young Asian men whom I believe have information.

"The whole community is behind this investigation into what I am satisfied was a planned and deliberate act. The inquiry remains focused."

Two of the four adults who survived are still in a critical condition. Mr Chishti's wife, Zaib-u-Nisa, who was forced to jump out of a window when flames engulfed her upstairs room, is not thought to be one of them. Their son, Mohammed Ateeq, 18, and daughter, Nafeesa, 35, were among the dead.

The father of the grandchildren who died – Tayyaba, 13, Rabia 10, Ateeqa, six, Aneesa, two, and Najeeba, six months – who had been in Pakistan, is to arrive in England tomorrow. Mr Chishti's other son, Shafique Muhammad, 30, was in a Manchester hospital yesterday with severe burns.

Police said they had been given permission by magistrates to question the men in custody until tomorrow.