18-year-old in court over Leicester fire deaths

Friday 20 September 2013 22.16
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Four members of the Taufiq family died in the blaze in the early hours of last Friday
Four members of the Taufiq family died in the blaze in the early hours of last Friday
Muhammad Taufiq al-Sattar last spoke to his family just hours before the blaze
Muhammad Taufiq al-Sattar last spoke to his family just hours before the blaze

An 18-year-old man has appeared in court in Leicester charged with murdering the wife and children of Dublin-based neurosurgeon Muhammad Taufiq al-Sattar.

Shehnila Taufiq, 47, died along with her two sons and daughter in a suspected arson attack at the family home in the early hours of last Friday morning.

Kemo Anthony Porter, of Browning Street in Leicester, was not required to indicate any plea during a two-minute hearing at Leicester Magistrates' Court.

He spoke only to confirm his name, address and date-of-birth and was remanded in custody to appear by video link at the city's Crown Court on Monday.

Speaking in Dublin today, Mr Sattar said he has taken strength from his faith, even though his loss is enormous.

Once authorities have released the bodies, he said his family would be buried in Newcastle in Dublin, after a service at Clonskeagh mosque.

Speaking on the Today with Seán O'Rourke programme, Mr Sattar said the last conversation he had with his family was just after 11pm on the Thursday night, just hours before they died.

He said his wife and 19-year-old daughter Zainab were due to move to Ireland in July to work with the Dawah Community Centre in Castleknock.

His daughter had wanted to pursue a career in primary school teaching in Dublin and also teaching religion.

His sons Jamal, aged 17, and 15-year-old Bilal were to remain in Leicester to pursue their studies.

Mr Sattar said his future was in Ireland, where he would focus more on the community centre where he works.

He said he would work to be part of Irish society to show how Muslim people practise their religion.

Mr Sattar first came to Ireland 23 years ago and, after lengthy periods abroad, was appointed a consultant paediatric neurosurgeon in 2007.

Ryanair apologises for handling of booking

Meanwhile, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said the airline has apologised to Mr Sattar after he was charged €188 to change his booking to get on the earliest flight to Birmingham on the morning of the fire.

The boss of the budget carrier said a letter has been sent sympathising with the consultant and over the airline's handling of the booking change.

"I think you have to make exceptions in cases like that and we made an exception last night when we became aware of it," Mr O'Leary said.

"We want to respond sensitively to these cases."

Mr O'Leary said Mr Sattar had been refunded the extra charge and said that the booking change was handled according to the airline's policy which staff are told to implement without exception or variation.

Inquests adjourned until later date

Meanwhile, inquests have opened into the deaths.

At a short hearing at Leicester Town Hall, Leicester coroner Catherine Mason opened and adjourned inquests into the four deaths.

Temporary Detective Superintendent Kate Meynell, senior investigating officer at Leicestershire Police, told the hearing the four had been formally identified by a dental examination.

The cause of death was given as smoke inhalation.

Adjourning the inquest to a date to be set, Mrs Mason said: "The family would like to have their loved ones back so that they can rightly and respectfully lay them to rest.

"However in the circumstances it is not possible, but as in all losses I will work very hard to ensure that there is the lawful release at the earliest opportunity so that funeral arrangements can continue."