Triplets' death playing second fiddle

Last updated 13:51 08/02/2013
the Weekes triplets
TRAGIC LOSS: The Weekes triplets.

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The father of New Zealand triplets killed in the Doha Mall fire last year is concerned the trial to find responsibility for the fire was instead focusing on what he saw as a side issue.

The court is considering the distinction between whether the Gympanzee centre in the Villagio Mall was a "nursery" or a "daycare centre", because it could indicate whether the owners were guilty of negligence.

But Martin Weekes, father of triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher who died in the fire last May, said this part of the trial was "irrelevant".

"This trial is supposed to be about why 13 children and six adults were killed in Qatar's busiest shopping mall on a quiet weekday, in order to ensure it never happens again," he said.

"Instead we end up missing the real issues in an irrelevant debate focusing on whether Gympanzee was operating as a nursery or a daycare."

He said the parents had contracts and certificates all stating Gympanzee was a nursery, signed by the owner Iman Al Kuwari.

"Jane knew Iman and she always referred to Gympanzee as a nursery or school," he said.

"Lillie, Jackson and Willsher would never have been there had she not endorsed its facilities, curriculum, and teachers."

He said the issue of the centre trading illegally should be a separate case, and it was disturbing the Qatari justice system was prioritising trading breach debates over health and safety problems.

Defence witnesses have told the trial the daycare centre they died in was not a nursery because no teaching took place there.

Doha News reported four defence witnesses told the court there was no blackboard, no chalk, and no teachers – children played with toys, coloured with crayons, and used play-dough.

Last month, parents of the children showed the court documents, such as receipts, monthly contracts and photos of signage, where Gympanzee referred to itself as a nursery, said the Doha News.

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