A British victim of the Kenya shopping mall massacre was murdered after offering himself as a hostage to save a group of children, it emerged today.
Mitul Shah, 38, a marketing executive who was born in London, tried to negotiate with al-Shabaab terrorists in a bid to save the 33 children taking part in a TV cooking competition that his company was sponsoring on the roof of the Westgate centre in Nairobi.
Colleagues said his efforts are thought to have given the victims precious seconds to flee and hide, although Mr Shah was unable to convince the gunmen to agree and he and a number of children were shot dead as well as the radio presenter Ruhila Adatia-Sood.
Mr Shah, a father-of-one who graduated in management science with computing from the University of Kent, joined Bidco Oil, an east African cooking oil company, as a management trainee 16 years ago.
A director of the company, Dipak Shah, said everyone was feeling a “profound sense of loss” and offering their sympathies to his wife Rupal and daughter Sarai, aged two, who are being comforted by relatives.
He said: “We are in constant contact with them. They are devastated, as are we all. He was there with the kids as a representative as we were a sponsor of the programme.
“He was trying to negotiate the freedom of the children in order for him to be taken as a hostage. Some had managed to save their lives but unfortunately he, and others, did not. It was a heroic and brave act – a true reflection of his soul.
“He was a wonderful person who always went out of his way to help others.”
Witnesses have told how the Islamic terrorists stormed the roof, firing at gas cylinders in a bid to cause maximum casualties.
Described as “dynamic, enterprising, hard working”, Mitul Shah had climbed the ranks of the company, playing “a pivotal role” in helping Bidco become the largest and fastest growing manufacturer of vegetable oils, margarine and animal feeds in east, central and southern Africa, Mr Shah said.
A Manchester United fan who loved cooking, he spearheaded the company’s move into social media and also took part in numerous endurance races and scaling Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
He was also chairman of Bidco’s football team. “He lived life to the fullest. He was a very positive person, full of joy, full of laughter,” Mr Shah said. “We are all grieving and he will be missed widely.”
Colleagues are being offered counselling, while many have taken to the internet to post tributes to their team leader. One friend, named Alkane, said: “He is a real hero and had an option to run away but he opted to become a saviour of kids.
“This says it all about Mitul. I salute him for his decision. I am very much thankful to God that I had an opportunity to spend time with such great soul.”
Roberts Libosso, a colleague, said: “He touched every one of us through his warm affection and sensitivity coupled with brilliant leadership skills. Mr Shah was a born leader.”
Another friend, Sarah Njeru, wrote: “I cannot even begin to describe the loss, the sadness, the love, the hole in our heart. I want to see my office extension screen say ‘Mitul calling’ but I can’t. We will forever cherish you. Rest in peace boss.”
A total of 61 people remain missing, presumed buried under the rubble of the mall, sparking fears the official death toll of 67 people – including five Britons – could rise.
An international team of investigators is now helping Kenyan authorities identify victims and suspects.
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