Doha fire daycare owner appears in court

Last updated 06:53 30/11/2012
the Weekes triplets
TRAGIC LOSS: Triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who were killed in a mall fire in Qatar in May.

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The owner of a Doha mall daycare centre that burnt down, killing 19 people including Wellington triplets, has finally appeared in court, but grieving relatives face yet more delays.

All defendants pleaded not guilty when they appeared in a Doha court yesterday, Doha News reports.

But the trial, which has already faced multiple delays as the daycare centre's owner Iman Al Kuwari failed to show, was put off till December 9 after defence lawyers asked for charges to be brought against Nike Corporation, the owner of the shop in the Villaggio where the fire began in May.

That fire killed Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, aged 2, from Wellington.

Their mother, Jane Weekes, recently wrote a harrowing account of the deadly day and being told the triplets were dead.

''It's over, your children are dead, here's the proof, a photo. We are too busy today to let you hold them and kiss their still warm cheeks goodbye.

''I remember pleading, please, please let me see my babies.

''But no. Make an appointment and you can come back tomorrow.''

Doha News said prosecutors yesterday opposed the move in court to charge Nike but judges agreed to consider it.

The Qatar fire investigation report said the fire began in the mezzanine at Nike sportswear store due to a faulty electrical wiring in the fluorescent light, which led to the ignition of its plastics components before falling to goods made from flammable materials.

While Nike employees failed to put the fire out and the existence of sprinklers in the store could not be confirmed, the investigation also found fault with the wider mall, in which security failed to control the fire.

It concluded a "lack of adherence to required laws, systems, and measure by all concerned parties to different degree. This includes adherence to design, license, and safety conditions, which contributed to Villaggio catastrophe."

Doha News said emotions ran high among relatives of the dead yesterday and, reacting to the further delay, said their expectations were low to begin with and at least some progress had been made.

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- The Dominion Post

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