Doha fire: Family denied access to report

By Hana Garrett-Walker

The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied
The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied

The father of Kiwi triplets killed in a mall fire in Doha says the biggest and most scientific piece of evidence is not being presented in a trial to decide culpability for the fatal fire.

A Qatar court yesterday heard from various witnesses, including Louie Aban, the husband of Gympanzee daycare centre accountant Maribel Orosco, who said his wife had called him three times during the fire before she died.

Nineteen people were killed, including 2-year-old New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, in the Villaggio Mall fire on May 28.

The trial, which had been delayed at least four times, will resume on January 30.

The triplets' father Martin Weekes today said the biggest question he had was why the judge had not been presented with an independent report into the fire.

"To this day, we have been denied access to that report ... not only have we been denied access to it, it's not been presented to the court.

The most scientific piece of evidence that's available has not been presented to the court," he said.

The families of the 13 children killed in the fire met with the attorney general in Qatar earlier this month saying they needed the report.

"All we know is that it's gone to the Cabinet in the country and recommendations from that reports are supposed to be improving the safety in the country. Nobody knows what the recommendations are."

The report was produced in one week, after which all evidence in the mall was destroyed, Mr Weekes said.

"My concern is how can a decision [from the court] stand up without evidence put in front of it.

"My concern is that report shows what they don't want us to know," he said.

Mr Aban told the court yesterday that in the first call from his wife he told her to wet clothes, put them over the mouths of the children and run down the stairs, Doha News reported.

Ms Orosco called one last time to say goodbye.

"She told me she had to 'let go'," Mr Aban said.

A forensic doctor told the hearing all 19 victims were found with ash on their clothes and in their noses and mouths, indicating they died of suffocation from smoke.

Mr Aban told the court he was stopped from going inside the mall when he arrived, despite telling officers that his wife and several children were trapped inside.

He said nearly two hours later, when authorities were unable to locate the daycare centre, firefighters suited him up so he could show the way but by that time the air was too hot and smoke too thick to make it inside.

Mr Weekes said he was not sure who would take to the stand when the trial resumes.

"The outside world is not going to drop this. We will go through what we've been asked from the court, but the outside world will continue asking questions until real justice is done."

- APNZ

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