The family of a seven-year-old arson victim has 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, tragically 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 [Monday 17 September] 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.
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.
Iroroefe remembered how much he loved going to church, and how he led the Praise and Worship at the weekly bible study group the mother and son used to attend.
She added: “Joel always wanted people around him – that was why we used to go to the park a lot so that he could make new friends. His smile and laugh would light up a room and he was so full of life and energy.”
A spokesperson from Joel’s school, Tidemill Academy, where he was due to start Year Three this September, also added their tribute.
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.
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.