x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

More tests on children's deaths

Authorities turn to specialised laboratories to pinpoint what killed two children thought to have succumbed to severe food poisoning.

The D'Souza siblings, Chelsea and nathan, who died in Dubai last week.
The D'Souza siblings, Chelsea and nathan, who died in Dubai last week.

DUBAI // Authorities have turned to specialised laboratories outside the country to pinpoint what killed two children thought to have succumbed to severe food poisoning last week, it was announced yesterday. The Dubai Public Prosecution has sent samples of food and tissue to laboratories outside the UAE, although it did not specify where. Prosecutors also ordered autopsies on the two bodies yesterday.

"Due to the lack of the medical reason of death, the advocate general has ordered an autopsy of the two deceased children by the medical examiner to find the reason of death," prosecutors said in a written statement. Dubai Advocate General Khalifa Rashid bin Deemas confirmed yesterday that prosecutors were investigating the deaths, and that he had authorised the medical examiner to use all means available to determine what caused the deaths.

Nathan D'Souza, five, died on June 13 after suffering from vomiting and other symptoms common to food poisoning. His sister Chelsea, eight, died the following day. The autopsy order comes after nearly a week of investigation and laboratory tests by Dubai Municipality and hospitals. The reports were handed over to the police last week, who referred the case to the prosecution for further investigation. Although authorities have been quiet about the test results, it has been learnt that so far the exact cause of death could not be identified. Better technology would be needed to trace toxins that may have killed the children. Their father, Patrick, met prosecutors yesterday and said he was confident the case would move quickly. "I was at the public prosecution and they told me that the investigation has not yet been completed. They said that the samples have been sent abroad for further analysis," Mr D'Souza said. "The prosecution assured us that the case is being taken very seriously and I feel quite confident," he added. The Dubai Public Prosecution reviewed statements from the restaurant staff and the children's mother, but it is not clear whether officials have questioned anyone else. In his statement, Mr bin Deemas said: "Given the mysterious circumstances of the incident and the concern of public opinion in this case, Dubai Public Prosecution will cover all the aspects of the circumstances that led to the death of the children and take the legally required action in the light of what is clear from these investigations." Nathan, Chelsea, their mother Ann Sofia and a housemaid became ill on June 12 after eating a meal delivered from a restaurant serving Chinese food in Al Qusais. The Lotus Garden Restaurant yesterday said there had been no complaints from others who ate at the restaurant or ordered food from it. Mr D'Souza said: "We have to wait until the report is released to say anything on this. A series of tests will be conducted and only then would we know." He stressed that he did not want media speculation to lead to "drama" surrounding his children's deaths. "All this speculation is not correct and is not doing any good for us," he said. "New stories are being created by the media each day. We are talking about the future of children and family in Dubai." Mr D'Souza and his wife, a French national, have been living in Dubai for several years and have been supported in their mourning by family and friends. "We need to concentrate on children, on health care and other serious issues that families face here," Mr D'Souza said. pmenon@thenational.ae