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Police probing possible gang links after arson murder of seven-year-old Joel

One line of inquiry is that Joel’s brother Sam, 21, may have been the target of the attack in Deptford, south-east London.

Detectives probing the arson murder of seven-year-old Joel Urhie are investigating whether the attack is linked to a gang dispute.

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

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

His mother, Sophie, and 19-year-old sister escaped by jumping out of a first-floor window.

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

Sources said one line of inquiry was that the attack was gang-related amid reports that Sam may have been the target.

But Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan said the exact motive was still not known.

She told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday evening that it was not believed Joel was the target.

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

Joel Urhie died in the arson attack on his home in Adolphus Street, Deptford (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.”

John Urhie spoke of the ‘terrible loss’ of his young son, Joel (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.”

Police are treating the fire as arson (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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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