KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 ― The deadly tahfiz school fire case which killed 23 people on Thursday has been “solved” with the arrests of seven teenagers, Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Amar Singh declared today.
Amar said the seven Malay teenagers aged 11 to 18 were nabbed in arrests from 6pm yesterday until 2.15am today.
“With the arrests of these seven individuals, I can confirm that this case has been solved and no other suspects have to be arrested,” he said at a press conference at the KL police headquarters.
“This is a tragedy so I am happy we are able to solve it and can bring some peace to the families...It’s a tragedy not only to the family but everybody in Malaysia,” he said, noting that the children who perished were aged six to 11.
He said the police have seized the shirts and pants that the suspects were wearing, as well as motorcycle helmets that they had used.
A total of five shirts, five pants, three mobile phones, four helmets, two Lagenda 115Z motorcycles and one Suzuki RU 120 LU motorcycle were seized from the suspects, he said.
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According to Amar, all seven suspects went through urine tests and six of them were tested positive for the ganja drug. He declined to reveal the age of the suspect who tested negative for drugs.
He said no drugs were found on the suspects during their arrests, but said it was possible they were on drugs during the fatal incident.
Out of the seven suspects, two of them had prior criminal records respectively under Section 148 of the Penal Code for weapon possession at a riot and Section 379A for theft of a vehicle.
All seven suspects were brought to court today and a remand order was granted under Section 117 of the Penal Code for a seven-day detention to assist in investigation from September 16 to September 22, he said.
“We are investigating under Section 302 and Section 435,” he said, referring to the two offences under the Penal Code for murder and mischief by fire.
The offence of murder under Section 302 is punishable by death, while the offence under Section 435 is punishable by a maximum 14-year jail and fine.
During the press conference, Amar declined to comment on details of the case as investigations were still ongoing and it could affect the court process.
He confirmed however that two gas cylinders were found at the tahfiz school and that an “accelerant” or “hydrocarbon” was used to speed up the fire.
“Maybe because of their age and maybe because of their level of maturity, they did not know their actions would cause the final result,” he said, confirming however that the suspects would not be excused and that the police “will proceed as normal and follow the rule of law” in their probe on the seven.
He also declined to speculate on the motive of the seven suspects, aside from saying they had an “intention to burn” and also attributing it to a prior dispute between the suspects and tahfiz school students.
“The incident’s motive is believed to have arose from a misunderstanding after teasing between the suspects and a group of residents at the tahfiz school’s hostel that started few days before the incident. Further investigations are ongoing,” he said, declining to comment on the duration and nature of the teasing.
All seven suspects were not schooling and were not students of the tahfiz school, he said.
He confirmed that a tahfiz school student that was previously asked to assist in police investigation was unrelated to the fire and did not know the seven suspects.
“Yesterday we called in a tahfiz school student that was sleeping in the surau next door. We have investigated and found that he was not involved and he has been released.
He is not one of the seven,” he said.
Noting that the arrests were made after close-circuit television cameras’ recordings were made available to the police and suspects were identified from the video recordings, Amar thanked the public for their assistance in the case.
As for whether the police would investigate the operator of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school for non-compliance with fire safety requirements, Amar replied: “I believe DBKL will investigate, we will investigate the crime element. They will investigate the breach.”