'Decent place' overshadowed by increasing racial tensions

Click to follow
The Independent Online
JETS bound for Heathrow thunder over Benson Close in Hounslow, where the elderly couple were murdered. 'You get used to the noise,' one resident said, adding: 'We don't want to get used to this.' Those who live on the estate are already grappling with increased racial tensions.

Madhauji Ambasna, 82, and his 73-year-old wife Diwali left India for Britain just over 20 years ago. They lived briefly in Kenya before finally coming to England. The couple, who had three daughters - one lives near by and another in Wembley - were Hindus who spent hours every day in private prayer.

They regarded their home as a safe place, often saying to neighbours that their small one-bedroom flat on the third floor, with its security system, was better than a ground-floor flat on the small, well-maintained council-house estate.

But even their friends there did not know that last Christmas their privacy was shattered. Someone broke into their home, tied them up and rummaged through their belongings. Nothing was taken and they were not harmed. Now, four months later, in another attack, they are dead.

The police said yesterday they were baffled as to the motive of the attack. The two girls who were seriously sexually assaulted were white. There was no clear indication the attack was racially motivated.

Neighbours, both Asian and white, disagree on whether the attack is symptomatic of what some said were increasing racial tensions.

'Ten years ago with the skinheads it was bad. Bricks through your window. Now it's quiet,' said one Asian neighbour whose family own one of the terrace houses on the adjacent Cromwell Road. Other Asians said the race problem was growing. A mother of four said: 'One of my children was playing in the street the other day when a teenage white kid threw a metal bar at him. Names and swearing at Asians are common.'

The area has a mix of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. But most residents point out that the 20-year-old brick-built flats and surrounding blocks were 'not an Asian ghetto'.

A local newsagent, Mukash Pomal, said: 'Compared to other areas of London, this is quiet.' But a woman driver of a new car, parking near the block of flats, said: 'Sure there's race problems. There's loads of 'em around here.'

Some of the dead couple's neighbours said the new mosque being built near by was 'causing problems'. Racist graffiti was increasing.

One woman said the Benson Close flats were being used by the council as if they were a 'mental hospital'. She said the flats contained 'a lot of disturbed people'. Someone recently committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor, she said.

At night, Mr and Mrs Chan's chip shop on Cromwell Road, where the two girls were abducted, is a focus for the young of the area, who congregate there.

A resident summed up: 'I've lived in other parts of London, but this is a terrible thing that has happened in quite a decent place.'

Comments