Qatar mall fire report withheld, says father

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 19:33 24/01/2013
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 Qatar government is refusing to release its report into the fire that killed Kiwi triplets and 16 others in May, the toddlers' father says.
 
Martin Weekes and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs have requested the investigation report but their calls have gone unanswered.
 
Mr Weekes, whose children Lillie, Willsher and Jackson died in the mall fire in May last year, understands the report has not been provided to the court and says he is amazed the case can go ahead without it.
 
"This is the eighth trial and we still don't have a copy of the investigation report," he said from Auckland, where he and his wife Jane are looking to settle.
 
"The main piece of critical evidence that the government has produced has not been used in the court, instead you've got vague testimonies from people."
 
Representatives of the 19 people killed in the blaze and government representatives from their countries of origin - including New Zealand, China, Egypt and Canada - met with Qatar's attorney general on January 9 and repeated their request for a copy of the report, Mr Weekes says. 
 
Neither he nor MFAT have received a copy.
 
The government released few details from the report last year. It said the investigation determined the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light in a Nike store, which was next door to the day care centre where the triplets were based.
 
The attorney general told the family and government representatives that he would ensure they received the report, Mr Weekes said.
 
Mr Weekes said the attorney general also said they should list other defendants if they wished for them to go on trial, but this is impossible to do without seeing the report.

Qatar's Ministry of Business and Trade is alleged to have failed to inspect the day care facility for three years and the Ministry of Interior reportedly fined the mall owners multiple times for using highly flammable material in the mall, but both government departments are not defendants in the case.

The hearing was postponed four times before all defendants, including the day care centre's owner, turned up to court.
 
The hearing resumed this week and Louie Aban, whose wife Maribel Orosco died in the fire, gave evidence of how he was asked by firefighters two hours after arriving at the scene to show him where the day care facility was because they couldn't locate it.
 
"I was there, I was outside at the time," Mr Weekes said. "The kids had no chance. Nobody had a clue what was going on, even when I asked someone they said 'don't worry, don't worry, everything will be alright'.
 
"It's a huge facility and nobody knew anything about it."
 
A broken fire hose and faulty sprinklers may have contributed to the situation, the court has heard.
 
The next court date is January 30 but Mr Weekes doesn't expect quick results. He believes the court's ruling will probably be appealed and it could take years before a final decision is made.

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Footnote: This story has been amended. An earlier version incorrectly stated the Ministry of Interior had been fined.

- Stuff

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