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Father’s pain after seven-year-old boy dies in suspected arson attack

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

A man has described the pain of losing his seven-year-old son in a suspected arson attack.

Joel Urhie was found dead after the blaze in Deptford, south-east London, and his mother, sister and brother are in hospital.

Speaking to reporters outside the house he moved out of around five years ago, father John Urhie said: “He was a very lovely boy who was just loving life and it’s a terrible loss.”

He said he was supposed to see his son on Monday but did not because Joel’s mother, Sophie, wanted to take him out.

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Joel Urhie, who died in the fire in Deptford (Family handout/PA)

He said Mrs Urhie is recovering in hospital with their 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, and son Sam, 21.

Describing his son, Mr Urhie, 54, said: “He played with everyone around here. He was a very nice looking boy.

“It’s terrible, the pain we can never forget.”

Neighbour and close family friend Grace Gbenedio, 56, said she rushed outside after hearing screams.

She said she held Mrs Urhie and asked her where Joel was, and she said: “My son is inside, my son is inside.”

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John Urhie (Thomas Hornall/PA)

Mrs Gbenedio said: “She was on the floor crying ‘Help, help, help;.”

She added: “I held her and said ‘Where is he?’ She said ‘He’s still in there’.

“The fire was just too much, like a curtain, no-one could go in or out.

“I said ‘Where, where, where?’ She said ‘That room’.

“We heard the last blast of the glass and she just collapsed.”

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Police and forensics officers at the scene of the fire in Adolphus Street, Deptford (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Kayla McClellan, 23, who lives next door to the property, said: “I just woke up to screaming and when we opened the door a wall of fire came through the front and we immediately closed it and went out through the back.”

Next-door neighbour Andre Pavanello, 21, said he heard “really, really loud screaming”.

“As I came out here I heard screaming and the front of the window smashed.

“I think they had to smash the window to get out and they had to jump out because the fire was getting too big.”

He added: “I think that he (the boy) was trapped inside the room because the flames were way too big to start with.”

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Police and fire investigations officers at the scene in Adolphus Street, Deptford (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Clive Stagg, 64, said “all hell was breaking loose” and added: “I have never seen anything like it. The whole house was ablaze.

“You couldn’t even get near it, even if you would have tried.”

Six fire engines and around 35 firefighters tackled the blaze in Adolphus Street after they were called at 3.25am on Tuesday.

Nearby properties were evacuated as a precaution and crews brought the fire under control just before 4.50am.

The Metropolitan Police have launched an arson investigation.

Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan, of Lewisham Police, said: “At this early stage there are a number of possible lines of inquiry; however, officers retain an open mind with regard to motive.”

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