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Brother of boy, seven, killed in ‘arson murder’ is convicted drug dealer

Joel Urhie was found dead after a blaze at the family home in Deptford, south-east London.

The older brother of a seven-year-old boy who died in a suspected arson murder is a convicted drug dealer who was recently released from prison.

Joel was found dead after a blaze at the family home in Deptford, south-east London on Tuesday, while his mother Sophie and 19-year-old sister Sarah escaped by jumping out of a first-floor window.

Police said on Wednesday that Joel’s sister has been released from hospital, where her mother is still being treated.

Sources said one line of inquiry was the attack was gang-related amid reports Joel’s brother Sam, 21, may have been the target.

Court records show Sam was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court, in south-east London, in February 2016.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he was handed a jail sentence of four years and four months after he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to supply, and having criminal cash.

A neighbour, who does not want to be identified, confirmed Sam was recently released from prison, adding: “This is definitely gang-related, 100%.”

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Wrigley said police are keeping an “open mind concerning motive” to the murder and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

Joel Urhie died following a suspected arson attack on his family home (Family handout/PA)

“This horrific incident has left a family shattered and the tragic loss of such a young life in suspicious circumstances resonates throughout the community in Deptford,” he said.

“Our sympathies are with Joel’s family and friends at this tragic time as they struggle to come to terms with their loss.

“I would directly appeal to anyone who was in the area and saw anything suspicious at around 3.30am, or who has any information about who was responsible for starting the fire that claimed the life of an innocent child, to contact police immediately.”

A post-mortem found the cause of Joel’s death was “consistent with fire and smoke inhalation”, police said.

Mourners, including Joel’s uncle, continued to leave floral tributes, cards, soft toys and balloons at the scene on Thursday, while the doors and windows of the house were secured with metal shutters and the police cordon removed.

The boy’s aunt, Ruth Urhie, said his mother is still in hospital, while his sister, who has been discharged, is staying with old friends.

Ruth Urhie, who is Joel’s father John’s older sister, added: “I was with him yesterday. He’s fine but he’s still in shock.”

Family friend Grace Gbenedio, 56, said neighbours hope someone will come forward with information to help catch whoever started the blaze.

She said: “I just pray they catch the people. That person who did it is not human.

“How can somebody do that?”

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