DUBAI // Looking out at more than 500 mourners in St Mary's Catholic church, Anne-Sophie D'Souza spoke directly to the memories of her two children. Nathan, five, was her "little Spider-Man", she said. His seven-year-old sister, Chelsea, "filled a void" in her life. Both died at the weekend from what authorities suspect was food poisoning. "For not saying it as often as I should have, I love you, I love you, I love you," Mrs D'Souza said, tearful. "It is hard to let go of you, my darlings, but I know you are with the Lord."
The children, their mother and the family's housemaid all fell ill on Friday night. The family had eaten takeaway food from an Al Qusais restaurant. Although they were all treated at New Medical Centre Specialty Hospital and released, Nathan and Chelsea were brought back to the hospital, where Nathan was pronounced dead. Chelsea died at Dubai Hospital on Sunday. Chelsea's teacher from the Sheffield Private School in Al Qusais, Rebecca Oxley, said she was "a very special girl" who always had plenty of friends. She recalled Chelsea giggling as she played with penguins during a recent trip to the aquarium at Dubai Mall.
Nathan was praised as having "amazing confidence" and being "a really exemplary student" by another teacher from the school. Father PM Peter led the mourners, which included a wide range of nationalities and faiths, in prayers for "two angels". "I have no answer to give as to why this happened. And why God has called them. Perhaps he loved them too much," he said. Hussein Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said yesterday that officials were still waiting for the results of food sample tests. He said a clearer picture would emerge on Wednesday.
A source said food control officials would seek an autopsy of the bodies to confirm whether the children died of food poisoning. The source also said that the municipality contacted other people who ate at the same restaurant as the D'Souzas, but that none of them had become ill. Patrick D'Souza, the children's father, insisted that his children died of food poisoning. "I think this tragedy has more to do with the hospitals; of course the restaurant food affected my children, but food poisoning can be treated," he said before the service.
"My wife took the children to the hospital immediately. The hospitals and the doctors need to understand what level of poisoning can affect the children." He deferred to authorities about the possibility of legal action. "I leave it to God and the Government of Dubai to take action against the culprits," he said. "Nobody deserves this sorrow of losing their young children like this." Dr Ajit Kumar, the medical director of New Medical Centre Speciality Hospital, said he could not comment on the case while it was being investigated by health officials and police.
"The health authority have come and said the matter is being investigated," he said. "They have taken all the medical records away and we have co-operated with them. They have spoken to some of the doctors involved." The restaurant where the family ate has been closed while the investigation is under way. The bodies of the children are expected to be taken to France, their mother's home country, for burial when the investigation is finished.