The Met team investigating the fatal arson case that resulted in a seven-year-old boy losing his life at his family home last year have released new images of a man they want to speak to as part of a fresh appeal for public information.
The set of CCTV stills were taken from cameras at a petrol station three miles away from the Deptford property where a fatal fire on Tuesday 7 August, 2018, resulted in the death of Joel Urhie. Joel’s mother and older sister Sarah, who were also upstairs at the property, managed to escape by jumping from first floor windows, injuiring themselves in the process.
The man shown in the images arrived at the Shell garage in Shooters Hill Road, SE3, Blackheath, at around 02:20hrs in the morning of 7 August, just over an hour before the attack at around 03:30hrs on house in Adolphus Street is known to have taken place.
He is caught on camera with a petrol can, that he fills with fuel he buys at the garage with a £20 note. The man is described as white, aged 30s-40s, approximately 5ft 10ins tall wiht medium build. He was dressed in blue jeans, blue deck shoes and a blue tee-shirt on the front of which is a two word motif – the second of which reads ‘removals.’ The man is known to have arrived and left the garage on a push bike.
Detective Inspector Alison Cole, from the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command (HMCC), is leading the investigation. She said:
“The petrol station where these images were taken from is just a few miles from the Uhrie family home in Adolphus Street, the location of the devastating attack which led to Joel losing his life.
“We are asking for help to identify this individual as we would like to speak to him as part of our ongoing work – if only to eliminate him from our enquiries. If you are this man, or you know him, please contact us as soon as possible.
“These images were shown alongside a special reconstruction aired on BBC1 Crimewatch Roadshow programme today [Friday 22 March], which also featured an emotive appeal from Joel’s mother Efe, who spent many weeks in hospital recovering from the injuries she sustained.
“We are hoping that it will help jog the public’s memories of that night in August last year. If you can think of any information that might assist us in progressing our investigation, however small or trivial it may appear, please come forward. If you do not feel comfortable talking to police you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously.
“This terrible arson – one of the most horrific crimes I have seen in over 25 years of policing – claimed the life of an innocent child, a tragic loss his family will never get over, and we desperately need the help of the public to bring justice for Joel’s family.”
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, 2018, found his injuries to have been consistent with fire and smoke inhalation.
Police are still investigating the exact method that was used to commit the crime; they believe it involved a burning item being pushed through the letterbox.
Last September, the family of Joel paid public tribute to him for the first time as they joined with police in a previous appeal for public information in a bid to find those responsible for setting fire to the family home.
Joel’s cousin Tega Majoroh, 18, who spent a lot of time with the little boy and frequently stayed with the family at the house targeted, pleaded for the public to come forward as she recalled the boy she viewed as a ‘little brother.’
Tega said at the time: “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 economics student said that she was ‘blessed’ to have spent so much time with Joel and remembered how his ‘sunshine’ spirit had a positive effect on all those around him.
“I would come to the house and he’d run to me with so much happiness. 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.”
Joel’s mother Efe, 50, joined Tega last September in paying tribute to her son, saying: “Joel was the sweetest most caring little boy you could ever meet. He was so intelligent and always curious to learn new things. He never complained about anything. He loved going to church, and led the Praise and Worship at the weekly bible study group.
“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.”
This morning [Friday 22 March] in her new appeal on Crimewatch Roadshow, Efe Uhrie urged people to examine their consciences and contact police with any information in order to help bring to account whoever murdered her son.
She recalled for the first time in public the last words she had exchanged with her beloved son, Joel, as she explained how, trapped in a bedroom, she had planned to jump out ahead of him to cushion his fall. He told me ‘I love you Mummy’, and ‘we’re going to make it together’.
Anyone with information can contact the dedicated incident room on 020 8345 3715 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.