Police investigating the apparent poisoning of a British family of five on holiday in Bangladesh, which killed a father and son, are hoping the survivors could hold the key to what happened.
Rafiqul Islam, 51, a taxi driver from Cardiff, and his son, 16-year-old Mahiqul, along with three other members of their family, were discovered unconscious in a locked room by police officers on Tuesday.
The father and son could not be saved, while Rafiqul Islam’s wife, Husnara, 45, their older son, Sadiqul, 24, and daughter, Samira, 20, are being treated in hospital. Samira remains in a critical condition in the intensive care unit while Husnara and Sadiqul are said to be recovering well. Police are keen to speak to them as soon as they can to try to establish what happened.
The family, from the Riverside area of Cardiff, were on a two-month holiday visiting relatives in the country and renting a flat in the eastern city of Sylhet.
Supt Farid Uddin said: “Our primary suspicion is they were poisoned. When we reviewed the incident – all the members of the family had slept in the same room, the doors were locked and there was no sign of forced entry or trauma – with our prior experience, the case of poisoning made sense.”
“We are doing everything necessary to determine the cause of their death. Doctors are yet to send the postmortem report. Our team has already preserved samples from the deceased persons, and we have also collected samples. They’ll be further examined in our laboratory and we’ll have a better understanding of the cause of their death.
“Our investigators are speaking with the relatives of the victims. So far we don’t think they have any enmity with anyone. We are waiting for the remaining family members to get better so we can talk to them as well.”
Uddin said the family had slept in the same room after eating dinner on Monday night. The following day, other relatives raised the alarm after they could hear no sound coming from the flat and tried unsuccessfully to open the door.
Masudul Amin, the investigating officer, said: “We are also speaking with the relatives who were in the apartment and other residents of the building. No one has been detained or arrested in this murder.”
Dr Moiul Islam Dalim, who is in charge of the intensive care unit at the Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, said: “We are treating three patients of the family for ‘unknown poisoning’. The mother and the son are doing well now but the daughter, Samira, is critical. She’s on life support. The type of poisoning can only be determined after laboratory examinations of the samples we collected from the patient’s body.”
There was shock and disbelief in the Riverside area of Cardiff. Muhibur Islam, an official at the Jalalia Mosque & Islamic Education Centre, said: “It’s very terrible. I’ve known the family for many years. Riverside is the hub of the Bangladeshi community in Cardiff and they were very well liked there. It’s very tragic, hard to take in.”
Islam said the family had been on holiday in Bangladesh. “They were poisoned. The circumstances are not clear. We’re praying that those who have survived will pull through.” He said Rafiqul Islam’s mother and two siblings had flown to Bangladesh. “We’re praying fo them all.”
One of their neighbours, who asked not to be named, said: “It is so shocking. We’ve been living near them for more than 25 years. They are a quiet family who do their own thing. They were just a nice, neat family.”
A Labour councillor for Riverside, Kanaya Singh, said: “Clearly this is a worrying and tragic event. Everyone I have spoken to in the community speaks very highly of the family and our thoughts are with them.
“There is also a great deal of concern because many people from Riverside go to Bangladesh on a regular basis. I hope that the authorities are able to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.”
Rafiqul Islam’s brother-in-law, Abdul Mumin Khan, described him as a “very nice guy” and his son as “very sweet and friendly”.
Mohammed Haroon, general secretary of the Bangladesh Association Cardiff, who used to work with Rafiqul Islam, said: “He was a very nice person, very helpful person who was at the mosque all the time and constantly working with the community.” Haroon said Rafiqul Islam was a member of their local badminton and football teams.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “We are providing consular assistance to a British family following an incident in Bangladesh and are in contact with the local authorities.”