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Egyptian's death in London sparks anger

The body of 21-year-old Egyptian Sherif Adel Habib Mikhail was found inside a car that was set ablaze in a garage fire in South Hall

Shounaz Meky

Published: Updated:

A wave of anger swamped Egypt on Wednesday following the “mysterious” death of an Egyptian man in a London suburb.

The body of 21-year-old Egyptian Sherif Adel Habib Mikhail was found inside a car that was set ablaze in a garage fire in Southall, London, early Monday.

According to British media, Mikhail was initially rescued from the fire but was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

Pictures showing Sherif Adel Mikhael. (Courtesy his Facebook page)

Who was Sherif?

The victim’s uncle - who is based in Egypt - said his nephew Sherif Adel Habib Mikhail was a mechanics engineering student at London’s Greenwich University, and held a dual British and Egyptian citizenship.

Fouad Mikhail told the local news website, Copts United, that his nephew “had been beaten severely and tortured before his body was set on fire and delivered at a garage in the London suburb.”

He said a worker at the garage called the police and Mikhail was taken to a specialist burns hospital in Essex, but was pronounced dead.

The uncle said the death of his nephew had shocked the entire family, adding that his family in London had no political affiliations.

The fire destroyed the garage in the back garden of a three-bedroom house which backs onto Sparks Bridge Park, the Evening Standard newspaper said.

Mikhail, who lived six miles away in North Acton, had recently completed his degree in mechanics engineering and hoped to become an army officer at Sandhurst one day, the newspaper added.

He has a sister who is studying law at a university in London. His father owns a restaurant in London and has lived there for more than 40 years, according to the uncle.

His sister Rania, 19, told the Standard: “He wanted to join Sandhurst. The day he died he was meant to go there and provide his documents. He always wanted to go and graduate as an officer.”

“Sherif’s heart was really pure. He always put everyone before himself. He was the closest person in my life. I told him everything and he told me everything.

“He was everything to me. I am who I am today because of him. He visited me in Reading whenever I felt lonely. He was a very protective brother.”

Investigations and reactions

Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said late Tuesday its consulate in London was “following around the clock” Mikhail’s death, reported Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram.

Abu Zeid said the consulate had been notified by the patron of the Coptic Orthodox Church in London about Mikhail’s death.

The spokesman of the UK metropolitan police told state owned MENA agency that police were currently investigating the “deadly fire” and the circumstances behind it.

The Evening Standard newspaper, citing a police source, said a man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

“He has since been bailed to a date in mid-June while detectives from Ealing carry out further investigations,” the report said.

The British Embassy in Cairo is closely following reports concerning the victim and is working with the Egyptian government in London and Cairo.

“Detectives are investigating a fatal fire in Ealing. Police were called at approximately 00.55 on Monday, April 25, to reports of a fire at a residential property in Cranleigh Gardens, Southall. Officers, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service attended the scene,” The Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The Metropolitan Police press office told Al Arabiya English there were no further updates.

In the early hours of Wednesday Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Britain to “intensify” the investigation into Mikhail’s death, in remarks released on the president’s official Facebook page.

“The Presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt calls on the relevant British authorities to give due diligence to and intensify investigation into this mysterious incident in order to establish its causes, identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice," the statement said.

"The Egyptian state places great importance on preserving the lives of its citizens inside and outside of Egypt," it added.

More reactions followed from Egyptian TV hosts and social media users calling for a swift investigation into the incident.

 في هذا الشارع يقع البيت الذي احترق في حديقته مرآب السيارات وقتلت نيرانه الطالب المصري
في هذا الشارع يقع البيت الذي احترق في حديقته مرآب السيارات وقتلت نيرانه الطالب المصري

Links being made to Regeni’s case

Many people expressed their anger at what they described as the international community’s lack of interest in Mikhail’s death on Monday, compared to how it responded to the murder of Italian student Julio Regeni.

The death of the Cambridge PhD student continues to attract widespread interest both politically and through the media after his body, bearing signs of torture, was found in a ditch in Cairo earlier this year.

The Egyptian government faced strong criticism over Regeni’s death, especially from Italian and British authorities, for failing to investigate his murder case properly.

Acting in reprisal, many Egyptian TV hosts are calling for a similar treatment to Mikhail.

Egyptian journalist Ahmad Moussa condemned the killing of Mikhael, saying: “As long as you are in Britain, they record every move you take, so how did they fail to uncover the truth now? The Egyptian parliament should take the necessary actions quickly in order to expose the failure of the British police in identifying the murderer of the Egyptian engineer.”

Egyptian parliamentarian and Journalist Mustafa Bakri appeared on TV saying “the case is very mysterious and that they must deal with the case like Italy is doing in the case of Regeni.”

“The Egyptian Regeni was killed in a heinous way in Britain and we cannot exclude that there are certain goals behind his murdering”.

Egyptian media analyst Yasser Abdel Aziz said the Egyptian government and media will continue to view Mikhail’s case and the case of Regeni in the same light.

In comments to Al Arabiya English, Abdel Aziz said the government aimed to express that such killings can occur in all countries, and that many Egyptians will urge the government to take actions against Britain, especially that the latter was one of the countries that stood against Egypt when the Italian student was killed.

Meanwhile, Abdel Aziz expressed concern over the Egyptian media’s handling of Mikhail’s case, which he said could negatively impact the investigation process, as it tackles the case from a political perspective.