Man appears in court over three stabbing deaths in English town

Britain's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Mayor of Reading David Stevens speak following a vigil in memory of the victims of a stabbing attack, in Reading, Britain, June 27, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Man appears in court over three stabbing deaths in English town

  • Khairi Saadallah is accused of attacking groups of people in a park in the town on June 20

LONDON: A man accused of carrying out a stabbing spree in the southern English town of Reading last week in what police said was a terrorist attack appeared in court on Monday charged with three counts of murder.
Khairi Saadallah, 25, is accused of attacking groups of people in a park in the town on June 20.
He appeared before London’s Westminster Magistrates Court by videolink from a courtroom in Coventry, central England.
Wearing a grey sweatshirt and a face mask, he spoke only to confirm his name and age and that he lived in Reading, west of London. A security source had previously told Reuters that the suspect was a Libyan national.
The court was told by prosecutor Jan Newbold that families were enjoying a pleasant evening in Forbury Gardens when the attack took place.
Saadallah is accused of targeting a group of seven friends, stabbing three fatally — James Furlong, 36, and David Wails, 49, from Britain and US national Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39.
Another of the group required 28 stitches to a head wound. Two other men who were sitting with friends nearby were also stabbed, one in the back while the other suffered a cut to his cheek.
An off-duty police officer who was at the scene followed the suspect from the park and he was later arrested nearby.
Saadallah also faces three counts of attempted murder.
His lawyer Shibil Hammudi said his client would not enter a plea yet. The case was adjourned to London’s Old Bailey central criminal court for a hearing on July 1.

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

Updated 50 min 47 sec ago

Religion, no bar: Muslim group cremates Hindus as virus fear grips Mumbai

  • Officials say a majority are under lockdown or afraid to perform last rites

NEW DELHI: Pratamesh Walavalker was always proud of living in a well-connected area with neighbors and relatives who look out for each other.

However, the resident of Dombivali East, nearly 70 kilometers from India’s financial capital Mumbai, experienced a harsh reality check on Thursday.

None of his neighbors or more than 100 relatives responded to his calls for help when his 57-year-old father died of coronavirus-related complications.

Help, he said, finally arrived in the form of Iqbal Mamdani and his group of Muslim volunteers, who took his father’s body to a cremation ground for his last rites.

“No one came to our help, not even my close neighbor. There is so much panic among people about COVID-19 that our own don’t come near us. The Muslim volunteers helped us in this hour of crisis,” Walavalker, 28, told Arab News.

That same night, 50-year-old Mamdani and his group of volunteers helped another family perform the last rites of an 80-year-old Hindu woman who had also fallen victim to the disease.

The group was formed in late March after a local civic body said: “All dead bodies of COVID-19 patients should be cremated at the nearest crematorium irrespective of religion.”

After reports of a Muslim man being cremated in the Malwani area of the city angered the community, several members met with the authorities and managed to revise the order.

Since then, Mamdani said members of Mumbai’s Bada Qabrastan — the largest cemetery in the city — have extended their services to other communities as well.

“We get calls from different hospitals and people, and they seek our help in taking bodies to their final resting place. We decided to help the victims at this hour of crisis when there was chaos and panic in the city with the number of coronavirus cases increasing every day,” he told Arab News.

So far, the group has buried 450 Muslim bodies and cremated over 250 Hindu bodies.

He said their efforts would have been impossible without the Jama Masjid Trust, which oversees the Bada Qabrastan.

“On our request, the government allowed us to bury the dead bodies in seven burial grounds in the city,” he said.

There was one problem, however.

“No one was willing to come forward to collect dead bodies from the hospital and bring them to the cemetery,” Mamdani said.

Through word of mouth, Mamdani said seven Muslim volunteers quickly offered to help out.

The first challenge the group faced was a lack of ambulances, due to a shortage in supply as a result of the pandemic.

At first, they tried renting a private ambulance, “but the owner would not rent their vehicles for carrying COVID-19 victims,” Mamdani said.

With no other option left, the group decided to pool their resources and buy abandoned ambulances.

Mamdani said: “We managed to get 10 such vehicles from different parts of the city. With the help of mechanics and other resources, within eight days we managed to roll out the ambulances on the road.”

When the volunteers began gathering Muslim bodies from the hospital, they realized that several Hindu bodies had been left unclaimed, as their relatives “were too scared to perform the last rites.”

Mamdani said another factor behind unclaimed Hindu bodies was quarantine. The lockdown forced relatives to stay indoors and avoid the cremation grounds.

Experts have praised the efforts of the group.

“The Muslim volunteers have been really great support. They started working at a time when there was total chaos and panic in Mumbai,” Dr. Sulbha Sadaphule of Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, told Arab News.

Of the 820,000 COVID-19 cases in India, 100,000 are in Mumbai, where around 5,500 people have lost their lives from the nationwide fatality count of around 22,500.

“The morgue was overflowing with bodies because of a lack of ambulances and staff. When hospital staff and health workers were short in numbers they were helping us and the people,” added Dr. Sadaphule.

Mamdani said they would not have done it any other way.

“India is a country of religious harmony and we believe there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. With this motto we decided to perform the last rites on behalf of the Hindu families with the support of the police and relatives,” he said.