Keramat residents speak of suspects, who allegedly showed no remorse for their heinous act, being problem kids who were into late-night loitering and drugs.
After having been picked up by police, the seven suspected arsonists of the Darul Quran Ittifaqyah (DQI) tahfiz school blaze reportedly showed no remorse.
Sources said suspects aged between 11 and 18 had put on tough faces when questioned about the heinous act, the New Straits Times reported.
“It’s like they did not have any remorse. The teenagers did not even say that they were sorry for having caused the tragedy.
“All of them just looked down most of the time when being questioned about the incident. Maybe they had accepted that they were in the wrong.
“There was no crying whatsoever to show that they felt sorry, even the young ones.”
According to the report, sources said initial investigations showed that the suspects had wanted revenge on the tahfiz school students following a dispute recently, which also saw water bottles being thrown.
DQI teacher Mohd Ridzuan Suhaimi said the students could have crossed paths with the suspects during a routine sporting activity.
He said the students were only allowed to leave the school premises on Mondays and Wednesdays to play futsal at a court nearby the school.
“They are given 45 minutes to play sports nearby, from 6pm to 6.45pm. Otherwise, they would be confined to the school compound.
“So this was probably when the students would have had a tiff with the suspects. Things could have escalated from there,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Reportedly, Datuk Keramat residents are familiar with the suspects, who were known to be into drugs.
Residents told the media that they often saw the teenagers loitering at the park located behind the school.
Laundry shop owner Nur Hayti Abdul Halim, 46, who lives across the school, said she recognised one of the suspects.
“The photos of the boys who were caught had gone viral and when I saw the pictures, I was shocked because I know of them.
“Word is that these boys have been involved in drugs for some time now.
“When we saw the news that the boys had set the school on fire…it’s scary that boys this young did something like this,” Nur Hayti said.
Her neighbour, housewife Musliha Abdul Hamid, 38, said: “I always see them heading to Taman Tasik Keramat on their bikes, five to seven of them at a time, as early as 6pm.”.
“The rumour in the neighbourhood is that the boys will hang out at the park until the wee hours of the morning. We don’t know what they were doing there,” she said.
A nurse in her mid-50s, who only wanted to be known as Khadijah, said she also recognised one of the suspects as a regular loiterer.
Khadijah said it was common to hear loud noises coming from the park late at night.
“I feel sorry for their parents, but whenever I pass by a few of them in the evening when I pick up my grandchild from the daycare centre, I am scared to even approach them,” Khadijah said.
She added that she was not surprised to learn that some of the suspects were as young as 11.
“These boys look up to the older ones, yet they are being led astray. I can only imagine the heartbreak their families will go through if they really were behind the fire,” she said.
Mosque caretaker Ahmad Tirmizi said they always had problems with teenagers breaking into the mosque compound.
“The front gates are locked after Isyak prayers at about 9pm and reopened for Subuh prayers at about 5am. We have spotted teenagers sleeping here many times,” he said.
Ahmad said there were occasions when he had to chase the boys out during Subuh prayers as sleeping was not allowed in the mosque.
He said there were also teenagers loitering around the park’s gazebo while revving their motorcycles after dark.
“It is possible they were sniffing glue or taking ganja there late at night,” Ahmad said.
“Those arrested are from around this neighbourhood. I have seen them here many times, riding their motorcycles,” said a resident who declined to be named.
“From what we (residents) understand, most of them are children of immigrants who had made Dato’ Keramat their home. The kids are born here but they don’t go to school,” said the 40-year-old resident.
A woman in her 60s said the lake area had been used as a hangout by naughty kids to smoke and possibly consume drugs.
“It had been that way for years. Sometimes, you can see large groups of children hanging around the lake.”
Almy Zubir, a 55-year-old tailor said many school students played truant at the lake and he often saw them hanging around the park and sometimes at his flat area nearby.
“We had many break-in cases, which residents here believed were committed by naughty kids who hang around here until early morning,
“However, I still could not see how these kids, as young as 11, are capable of this (burning down a school and cause deaths),” said Almy Zubir, a 55-year-old tailor.
The toilet caretaker of Taman Tasik Dato’ Keramat was sad that his 15-year-old grandson was one of the suspects.
“His behaviour changed after befriending those teenagers.
“They (the suspects) have a very strong influence on my grandson,” he told an online news portal.
The 55-year-old man said that his grandson never attended school and spent most of his time with the other teenagers at the lake.
He revealed that the suspect’s parents were divorced and the boy’s mother is working as a janitor.
Hamat Zahidin, a security guard of the lake area told the online news portal that he had bumped into the teenagers who seemed to be under the influence of drugs.
“I have advised them not to do immoral things in this area but they threatened to hit me if I report the matter to the authorities,” Hamat said.
Police have established that the teenagers had intended to burn the school, using petrol and two cooking gas cylinders to set the building on fire early morning Thursday.
Following initial forensics findings that suggested the blaze involved foul play and leads found through CCTV recordings, police arrested the seven teenagers.
Sept 15, Aftermath of Religious School Fire