Leicester fire deaths: Murder probe starts after family killed

Fire in Leicester
Image caption The fire started at the family's home in Wood Hill, Leicester, in the early hours
Wood Hill from the air
Image caption The four bodies were found in upstairs bedrooms
Scene of fire in Wood Hill
Image caption Leicestershire Police officers are examining the possibility of the blaze being a revenge attack

The deaths of a mother and her three children in a house fire in Leicester are being treated as murder.

Detectives are investigating whether the fire was linked to the murder of a man in a street assault on Thursday.

A man aged 19 and two 19-year-old women were arrested on Friday evening over the street attack.

The family's mosque said the mother who died was Shehnila Taufiq, her daughter was Zainab Taufiq, and her sons were Jamal Taufiq and Bilal Taufiq.

They were found dead in upstairs bedrooms at their house in Wood Hill.

'Level of concern'

The children's father, Dr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar, worked as a neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, and neighbours said the family had recently moved to Leicester.

Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister said detectives were examining the possibility of the blaze being a revenge attack.

He said the murdered man was "in his 20s and lived locally".

He is understood to be Antoin Akpom, a coach with the youth football team Nirvana FC.

He was assaulted in Kent Street, less than a mile away from the scene of the fire, at about 17:30. The man arrested on Friday night was held in London.

"These are obviously both very serious incidents and investigations have begun to establish if there are any links between them," said Mr Bannister.

"I understand the level of concern there may be in the city and would ask things not to escalate.

"I invite people, that if they have any concerns, to speak to the officers at the scene or call the police."

Emergency services were called to the fire at about 00:35 BST.

Mr Bannister said the mother who died in the fire was thought to be in her late 40s, her daughter was 19, and her two sons were 17 and 15.

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Media captionJo Black reports from the scene where forensics officers are conducting a "painstaking" fingertip search

Several neighbours of the family also voiced fears that they had been mistakenly targeted in a revenge attack meant for someone else.

'Throwing bricks'

A middle-aged man, who was woken by the sound of neighbours attempting to alert the family, said: "Most people feel this was meant for somebody else and they got the wrong house."

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Media captionLocal shop owner Sattar Raidhan, who knew the family, said he was "hurt" by the news of the fire

Describing the blaze, he said: "The heat of the fire was so intense it could be felt on the opposite pavement.

"The guy opposite broke the door down but the fire was so intense they couldn't get in.

"They were throwing bricks at the windows at the top of the house to alert them inside but I think it was too late," he said.

Neighbours said the family worshipped at the nearby mosque. They said the father was away in Ireland at the time of the fire.

Zeeshan Bawany, a family friend, said the father "couldn't believe what was being said to him" when he was told what had happened.

Mr Bawany said he was asked by the family to go to the house and check it was true.

Image caption Labour MP Keith Vaz called the deaths a real tragedy for the community

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who represents Leicester East, met community members near the police cordon sealing off Wood Hill.

"The father is a doctor and is being comforted by members of the community - a community who are clearly in grief," Mr Vaz said.

"A whole family wiped out in this way, with only the father remaining, is a big shock and a real tragedy."

He added: "Putting yourself in his position, you go off to work to save lives as a doctor and you arrive home and find your wife and two sons and daughter are all dead in the most horrible of circumstances.

"It's absolutely terrible."

Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby said he had been briefed about the murder in Kent Street and described it as "a stabbing".

A post-mortem examination on the murdered man is due to take place later.

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