Faulty light blamed for children’s deaths in St John’s Wood fire

Girl, 5, and brother, 13, killed after blaze broke out in utility room

A five-year-old girl and her 13-year-old brother died when a fire tore through their St John’s Wood flat less than two months after they moved to England “for a better life”.

Farah and Mohamid Rashid died when an electrical fault in a utility cupboard sparked a blaze in the early hours of the morning, a court heard last week.

Farah, “a mummy and daddy’s girl who liked playing with her Barbie doll”, was discovered in her bed having died from major burns. Mohamid jumped out of the third floor flat window to escape the flames but died from serious head injuries sustained in the fall.

Westminster Coroner’s Court heard the Rashid family had only arrived in the country in the October of 2009 to be nearer family members and were staying at the Cunningham Place flat of the children’s aunt and uncle.

However, the children’s father, Walid, had failed to find employment and the family had already bought tickets to return to their native Holland.

The court heard Farah had been sharing a room with her father on the night of December 17, 2009, while Mohamid was in a bedroom with his two brothers.

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When the fire broke out Mohamid ran into the other bedroom where Farah had collapsed, but with the flames quickly engulfing the room, he jumped out the window.

The two brothers managed to escape when the front door was kicked in by neighbours and the father was rescued by firefighters.

Fire investigator John Hughes told the court the fire had started with an electrical fault in the ceiling light of the utility room, which was located across the hallway from Farah’s bedroom.

He said the utility room door had been closed, preventing smoke from escaping, which would have set off the smoke alarm.

Trading Standards were unable to take matters further because the light fitting had been manufactured in 2001 – longer than the 12-month timeframe they are able to work within.

Westminster deputy coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said there were no suspicious circumstances, but criticised the rules preventing the authorities from investigating the light fitting further.