A mother and her three teenage children killed in a house fire in Leicester were not involved in an earlier murder in the city, Police said today.
Shehnila Taufiq, her daughter and two sons were trapped in the bedrooms of their terraced home in Leicester when the fire broke out just after midnight on Friday.
Mrs Taufiq was heard shouting: “Please save my children,” as neighbours hurled bricks at the windows to help them escape.
Despite the efforts of firefighters, neither she nor her children – named by the local mosque as Zainab, 19, Bilal, who is thought to have been 17, and Jamal, thought to be 15, were able to escape the blaze. One neighbour broke down the door of the house and two men tried to get inside, but they were beaten back by the heat.
Leicestershire Police had been investigating whether the fire was a revenge attack following the murder of a man half a mile away on Thursday afternoon.
The man in his 20s, named locally as Antoin Akpom, was found injured by police officers in Kent Street. He was taken to hospital where he later died. A man and two women, all aged 19, have been arrested in connection with the murder.
However, Roger Bannister, Assistant Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, said today that there was no reason to believe that the family were in any way involved in the murder.
"While we are investigating links between the two crimes there is absolutely no evidence to suggest 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 the residents of the house devastated by the fire had anything to do with the Kent Street incident.
"We have three people in custody in relation to the murder of the young man in Kent Street and we continue with the complex forensic investigations at Wood Hill.
"However, we know there are local people who know more about both incidents and the people responsible and we would appeal to their consciences. Two families have been devastated by events of the past 48 hours. Please help us to find those responsible."
Ms Taufiq’s husband Dr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar, a neurosurgeon, was being comforted by the community tonight after being told of the deaths. Neighbours said the family had recently moved to Leicester.
Friends described the family as academic, humble and devout Muslims who were popular in the community. One suggested that they may have been the victims of mistaken identity, if it is proved that the fire was indeed a revenge attack. Leicestershire Pol- ice said that neither the family nor the man who died was known to them.
“Most people feel this was meant for somebody else and they got the wrong house,” said a neighbour who did not want to be named.
“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,” he said. They attended the Jame Mosque about a hundred yards from their home where several members of the family were enrolled on an educational programme.
Imam Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain who is based in Leicester, said: “The mother was a scholar herself. Clearly they were a family that was into religion and education and they were held in very high esteem by the local community.”
Dr Sattar had been working as a consultant neurosurgeon at the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and also at the Blackrock and Hermitage private clinics in the city.
“The board and staff of Beaumont Hospital have learnt, with shock, of the tragic loss suffered by our colleague Mr Taufiq Sattar ,” a spokesman said yesterday.
“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.”