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Family pay tribute to seven-year-old boy killed in fire

PICTURED: Joel and his mother, Iroroefe Urhie

THE FAMILY of a seven-year-old Joel Urhie, who tragically died in the a house fire, have paid public tribute to him for the first time as they joined with police in a new appeal for public information in a bid to find those responsible for setting fire to his family home.

Joel Urhie, who lived at the house in Deptford with his mother and older sister Sarah, died as a result of the deliberate attack in Adolphus Street, Deptford shortly before 3.30am on Tuesday, 7 August. His mother and Sarah, 20, managed to escape by jumping from first floor windows.

Tega Majoroh, 18, who was Joel's cousin, spent a lot of time with the little boy and frequently stayed with the family at the house targeted. Today (Sept 17) she paid tribute to the little boy she saw as a younger brother, as she joined officers investigating the attack to make a plea for help from anyone who can shed light on the terrible crime that took his life.

Tega said: "Joel has been gone for a while now, but it seems like just yesterday he was taken from us. He brought so much light to the family without even knowing it. His death has been a tragedy to us all. His absence has caused a huge sense of loss. As young as he was, he meant so much too so many."

The student, who is about to begin an economics degree at university and has also been a youth worker, said that she was 'blessed' to have spent so much time with Joel and paid touching tribute to the first time she met him.

"He was more my little brother than my little cousin. I remember when he was three and couldn’t say my name for ages. I would come to the house and say ‘Hi Joel.’ He'd say ‘Hi Tera’ and run to me with so much happiness," she recalled.

"Joel was like the sunshine after rain. Coming home to him was like a breath of fresh air. He was always happy and always made others around him happy. There are so many memories that I will always treasure - and there will always be a hole in our hearts where his memory will lie."

Tega urged any members of the public who know anything to look to their consciences and come forward to assist the police to help them bring the perpetrators to account.

She said: "As someone who’s lost a brother and for the sake of his mother and sister, we are appealing to anyone who has a heart and has any knowledge of what happened to call the police and give any information they have."

Joel's mother Iroroefe Urhie, 49, who spent a month in hospital recovering after being badly injured in the escape from the burning house, joined Tega in paying tribute to her son.

She said: "Joel was the sweetest most caring little boy you could ever meet. He was so intelligent and always curious to learn new things. He never complained about anything."

A spokesperson from Joel's school, Tidemill Academy, where he was due to start Year Three this September, also added their tribute.

They said: “We were deeply saddened by the news of Joel's death. He was a kind, happy and smiley boy who loved running around and playing with his friends.

"The pain and suffering that his family are going through now is unimaginable, and I would urge anyone in the community who knows anything at all about what happened, to get in touch with the investigation team. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this extremely difficult time.”

Detectives from the Met's Homicide and Major Crime Command have been working hard to establish the circumstances of the fire since it took place just over six weeks ago.

Detective Inspector Alison Cole, from the investigation team, said: “This horrific incident has left a family shattered and the tragic loss of such a young life in these circumstances has deeply affected the whole wider community in Deptford.

“We are very grateful that Joel's family whilst still grieving have been willing to come together with us today to strengthen our fresh appeal to the public for any witnesses, or any information, that might possibly assist us.

"Did you see anything suspicious in or around Adolphus Street on Tuesday 7 August in the hours prior to the attack, or have you heard anything about how it might have started.

"Even the smallest piece of information could help us at this stage so I would urge you please to contact the incident room without delay. If you do not want to talk to police you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously.

"This devastating fire claimed the life of an innocent child, a loss his family will never get over, and we desperately need your help to bring those responsible to justice."

Joel's body was found by emergency services who attended the scene in the upstairs bedroom he shared with his mother. A post mortem conducted at St Thomas’ hospital on Wednesday, 8 August found his injuries to have been consistent with fire and smoke inhalation.

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