In May 2012, 19 people, including two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, died in a fire at Villaggio Mall. Today, the children’s parents will mark what would have been their fifth birthday.
Five people were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the deaths, a case that is now held up in appeals. Here, New Zealander Jane Weekes shares with Doha News readers an adapted version of a recent Facebook post she wrote mourning her family’s loss, and asking if justice will ever be served.
Lillie, Jackson and Willsher would have been five years old today, and we are having a hard time coping with the “should’ves, would’ves and could’ve beens.”
I should be out searching for the perfect school bags and stationary for them.
They would have been sad to leave their kindy friends but excited to see their other friends at their new school.
I could have been worrying about being “that” mother crying her eyes out at the school gate because my babies were now School Kids and that I’d put too much sugar/gluten/McDonalds in their lunch boxes!
Instead I’ve found myself crying over what they, Martin and I are missing out on.
I’m sure those of you out there who have also lost children, or other loved ones too young understand.
We don’t just grieve for the memories we have of our babies, but we mourn the dreams we have had for them. The first day of school, the first football match, the first ball dress etc…
As each milestone or special occasion happens the scar is ripped off and the gaping wound below is exposed as raw and bleeding again.
Waiting for justice
Things are made even harder as to this day, there has still been no justice for the children who were killed at Villaggio.
None of the people convicted of our babies’ manslaughter have spent a single day in prison.
The owners and managers of Gympanzee, Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani and Iman Al Kuwari, are representing Qatar in Belgium as the Qatari Ambassador and his wife. The couple sometimes doesn’t attend the appellate court hearings, and have given excuses about work duties or needing to take care of their children.
If they had taken proper care of ours, they would still be alive today.
We are trying to have faith in the justice system of Qatar, but when convicted felons are rewarded with diplomatic postings we feel our children’s lives have been disregarded, and dismissed as trivial compared to the career of a high-born Qatari.
We hope everyone will remember that to this day Villaggio has never acknowledged what, if any improvements it has made to its emergency systems or procedures. Nor have they taken any responsibility for their role in the deaths of 13 children, four young women and two firefighters.
We hope that everyone will remember that the Villaggio fire, the mishandling of the investigation, the non-disclosure of any reports and the continued torture of the victims families with court adjournments and delays continues to bring shame on Qatar.
We also hope everyone in Qatar will take a moment to remember Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, and to imagine what they should have been like on the 11th of March when they would have turned five.
We miss them as much today as we did nearly three years ago when I kissed them goodbye while having their morning snack in Gympanzee and said “Mummy loves you, see you later.”
Lost for words…
You have the deepest sympathy of every caring person who is aware of the circumstances that led to your tragic loss and of the subsequent pain that you have endured at the hands of what has demonstrated itself to be an incompetent justice system and an Qatari elite that feels no shame.
I will no doubt be castigated for this but I often wonder what the outcome would have been had a Qatari child lost his/her life in this tragedy.
If the owner was indian and the triplets Qatari we know the answer.
Owners can never be Indian… however an Indian friend of mine had an accident when a guy came in front of his car out of no where, my friend was arrested and when released on bail he was under house arrest and wasn’t allowed to travel. So I wonder how these people are allowed to travel or even represent Qatar internationally with them having blood on their hands?
a guy came in front out of no where- yes totally true cause your friend was on his phone or daydreaming. People just don’t fall from the sky in front of cars.
His friend was Indian not Qatari.
So obky qataris talk on the phone while driving. Seems you have a poor eyesight. Talking on the phone is a common thing in Qatar and its not just qataris who do it.
So you just assume and accuse – intelligent thinking.
if you read the comments made by many commentators you can very well know who makes accusations and stereotypes communities. their favourite targets obviously are qataris.
Yes so true. I mean jaywalking just doesn’t happen not in Qatar.
My friend was plead innocent after the investigation, the guy was crossing the road and he was drunk. It’s not about people falling out of the sky, it’s about people being irresponsible. People like you who assume things and jump to conclusion without any sense of responsibility, learn to question things before you make up any assumptions it will save you the embarrassment.
And still no justice. Heartbreaking. There is nothing anyone can say but please know that the tragic loss of your three beautiful children will never be forgotten by the majority in Qatar. We are with you as you grieve for Lillie, Jackson and Willsher. God bless them.
First of all my heart bleeds for the death of your innocent kids, they look so cute and would be even more so if they were alive today. I pray God gives you the strength to scale through such an ordeal, as for the Qatari’s they see themselves as demi gods and they care less about the lives of others that is why proper growth will forever evade and becoming a developed world will be out of thier reach
Deleting for stereotyping.
Shabina i fail to see how my comment was stereotyping, but i guess its the rules and if people can’t express how they feel about situations then i guess it is not worth commenting so i dare say you are the one stereotyping for failing to acknowledge my right to free speech, i do know i did not abuse anyone.
The only thing that people can do, is to keep this story alive. Not to prolong the agony or pain that parents, husbands and wives for the lost of their loved ones. But to ensure that justice will prevail to the very end – No matter how much they try to delay or postpone. Ensuring that those who are guilty be punished for taking away the lives of precious children and breadwinners.
We need to remember. Because if we ever forget, history will surely come back – maybe this time taking away our own precious children or loved ones.
As you said, it’s a SHAME for the country!
Nothing to add to her fine words. Shameful.
We will remember.
My condolences and sympathy for the loss.
It’s a shame and shows how low some people can be. These people lack self respect and one day something even worse will happen to their children because of karma. Qatari Govt. should work with Belgium and bring these murderers back to Qatar for their trail. If cases like these will be let off then anyone can get away with anything in this country and this also represents how weak the judiciary system is in Qatar.
No one has to work to bring them back. They come and go from Qatar as they please and were in town last week: http://www.qatarembassy.be/QatarEmbassy/English/Dailynews.html.
What is worse is that the manager of Villaggio, who was convicted of negligence in the course of doing his job, is still in that position. He holds a British passport.
there are no words but to say I am so sorry.
You enjoy your stay in Belgium, Mr. Ambassador ?
Teary-eyed and speechless 🙁 I can only hope that one day the victims and their loved ones would get the justice and peace that they deserve.
Just after the fire, the Qatari owner of our office block came to make an inspection. He ordered that the ground floor door at the back of the building be permanently locked because staff were using it to get into the building. I pointed out that it was a designated fire exit (maybe he hadn’t seen the green sign above it) and that the mortice lock which it had was illegal on a fire door, and that it should have either panic bars or panic latches which would still prevent access from the outside but allow escape from the inside. He was so impressed with the logic of what I said that he did absolutely nothing about it and the illegal mortice lock is there to this day.
Why does that not surprise me?
You confused him with logic, common sense and concern for human life…concepts Qataris do not understand.
I think you’re right. I should have thought it out properly. Can I have that 15 minutes of my life back please?
Regardless of how people can be idiots, ignorant, or lack of common sense etc,.,, you simply CANNOT explain this by their nationality. This is just wrong.
The perpetrators in the issue under discussion,are nationals of this country,the main convicted is the daughter of a serving minister,her spouse & co-convicted is a member of the ruling family no less & on top of that is a serving member of the diplomatic corps at ambassador level. The crime occurred in this country, the trial was held in this country & the court in this country found the accused guilty of involuntary manslaughter, how else does one explain this?
How is this comment still here ? If you’re going to live in a country and insult its people, you Sir, are free to leave. But as I’ve already said to several comments here, I’m sure the big fat check at the end of the month is worth staying in a country filled with a lack of “logic, common sense, and concern for human life”.
Deleting for attacking and stereotyping – and subsequent thread.
Shabina you’ll have to forgive us the odd lapse, but we see so much injustice and inequality in so many aspects of life in Qatar and as expats with virtually no power or representation it’s sometimes hard not to become a little jaundiced.
Enjoying being a dictator I see…
Deleted for being a troll.
Poor souls, living and gone….shame on Qatar.
As a parent who very nearly put his son in Gympanzee the final words of this article are particularly chilling. It is impossible for us to understand what you are going through. As others have said you have our deepest sympathy and those of us who were in Doha on that day must do the little we can by remembering and contributing to discussions like this. Qatar must not be allowed to forget.
Indeed, as a parent who used to used the ‘nursery’ it continues to chill me to the bone. I was planning to put my daughter in that week only I wasn’ t organised enough.
There are no more words that haven’t already been said.
We will continue to grieve with you until justice is served. Then we will remember silently, forever..
This article has brought tears to my eyes, and I cannot even begin to imagine half the pain they must be going through.
The last words of the article as well are absolutely heartbreaking. And this can happen to anybody, when you leave home to go to work and tell your mom ” Bye, I’ll see you tonight” You just never know what’s going to happen.
I’m just speechless seeing that 3 years later, they still haven’t had justice.. I don’t know much about justice in Qatar, but from the main cases I’ve read on Doha News, no justice has been made. How are the families that have lost a loved one, suppose to move on ???? Absolutely heartbreaking.
@sabina, is there a way to contact the family ?
Catalea, they have a facebook memorial page, try to search on facebook by the names of the triplets and their family name.
Thank you guys !
I’ve sent this article to the Belgian embassy in Doha asking them to evict the ambassador of Qatar from Belgium, Still waiting for a response.
Belgium should hang it’s head in shame as well. Each country receiving an ambassador has to accept their credentials, if not acceptable they can request the sending country to send another candidate.
Belgium is happy to accept a convicted criminal to be Qatar’s ambassador to their country.
Yes, they are “convicted”. It is a shame for Belgium, too, to harbor such people. I am ashamed as a European.
Did you know, MIMH, that Belgium produces quite good and desirable weapons?
Actually I’m surprised by that. Belgium is a useless artificially created country.
Deleted for stereotyping a whole country.
Errrr… I guess English is not your first language by making that statement.
Check history, Beligum is an artificial country, created by the great powers in Europe, especially the British as a buffer zone. It is an historical anachronism.
Money talks, b*****t walks.
Perhaps it would be more effective to send it to the Belgium ministry of foreign affairs. Or even an online petition directed to the Belgium government rejecting the acceptance of the Qatar ambassador by their part. Forgive my english. You get the idea. Anyway: something must be done to help the dead find justice and that the people responsible be hold accountable for this inexplicable loss. Its been too long already and our (me included) passiveness is frankly shameful.
The Belgian minister of foreign affairs, Didier Reynders, signed on march 31 2014, a a bilateral agreement on the protection and promotion of investments between Belgium and Qatar (source Belgian ministry of foreign affairs). I guess money is all that counts.
The same gentleman will lead an economic mission to Qatar during march 2015 as per the foreign ministry’s website. I am sure Mr Reynders will silently look the other way when questions are being asked.
please keep us posted !
I’ve also contacted them to ask why they accept a convicted criminal involved in the deaths of 19 people mainly children and for them to ask Qatar to nominate a replacement.
It is a shame on Belgium and the EU.
We should all do that.
This is terribly sad
Thank you for keeping thus story alive. Deepest sympathy and love to the triplets family x
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Happy birthday to them <3 My aroha to you Mama and to Dad too. You have my thoughts today and I will hug and kiss my children extra tight three times for yours.
If reading Jane’s post didn’t already bring tears to my eyes, your ” I will hug and kiss my children extra tight three times for yours” would have.
As always, only grace and dignity from these people even in the face of their immense, ongoing grief.
Sorry for your loss. My wife & i will keep you in our prayers today.