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Murder probe launched after seven-year-old boy dies in deliberate arson attack

Joel Urhie was found dead after the blaze in Deptford, south-east London, but it is not thought he was the target.

A murder probe has been launched after a seven-year-old boy was killed in a deliberate arson attack on his family’s house.

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

They are recovering in hospital, with non-life threatening injuries, where they were joined by Joel’s brother Sam, 21.

Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan said detectives believe the fire was started deliberately and police have launched a murder investigation.

She said there are currently no suspects and the motive for the attack is unknown but it is not thought Joel was the target.

“It is difficult to imagine a seven-year-old is the motive for the attack, especially at 3am,” she said.

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Joel Urhie died in the blaze (Family handout/PA)

Appealing for information, she added: “An innocent seven-year-old boy has lost his life in what should have been the safest place for him, his home.

“We’re treating this as a murder investigation.

“We believe that the fire was started deliberately but at this stage I am unable to go into any further detail due to operational reasons.

“We have no idea what the motive for this attack was.

“We’ve got no suspects at this time.”

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John Urhie said he was supposed to see his son on Monday but did not because the boy’s mother wanted to take him out (Thomas Hornall/PA)

Speaking to reporters outside the house he moved out of around five years ago, Joel’s father John Urhie, 54, 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 the boy’s mother wanted to take him out.

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

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

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.

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.”

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

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Police and fire investigations officers at the scene of the house fire (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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.”

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.”

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.”

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