Sri Lanka bombings claim victims from three British families including 11-year-old girl

Lizzie Dearden, Zamira Rahim
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Sri Lanka bombings killed three children of Asos owner and Denmark’s richest man Anders Holch Povlsen, he announces

A British man who lost his wife and two children in the Sri Lanka terror attacks has paid tribute to his “wonderful, perfect” family.

Anita Nicholson, a Singapore-based lawyer, her son Alex, 14, and daughter Annabel, 11, were having breakfast at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo, when one of seven suicide bombers struck on Easter Sunday.

Ben Nicholson confirmed his family’s deaths in a statement released on Monday.

“Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children,” he said.

“Alex and Annabel were the most amazing, intelligent, talented and thoughtful children and Anita and I were immensely proud of them both and looking forward to seeing them develop into adulthood.”

“They shared with their mother the priceless ability to light up any room they entered and bring joy to the lives of all they came into contact with.

Mr Nicholson added: “I would like to give my sincere thanks for the medical teams at General Hospital, Colombo, for treating Anita, Alex and Annabel with great dignity and me with kindness and sympathy.”

The Nicholsons were one of three British families so far known to have lost victims in the attacks.

Two siblings with dual British and American citizenship, 15-year-old Amelie Linsey and her brother Daniel, 19, were on holiday with their father.

Matthew Linsey, 60, told The Times he believed Amelie's injuries were less serious and made the desperate decision to carry his son away and leave his daughter alive with other survivors.

“You can’t describe how bad it was, people were screaming,” he said. “I thought my daughter was better off. I couldn’t find her because I was with my son.”

Daniel could not be revived at hospital and Mr Linsey, who was injured by shrapnel, later found out his daughter died of injuries from the blast at the Shangri-La hotel's Table One cafe.

Daniel was a student at Westminster Kingsway College who planned to study marketing at university following a gap year doing charity work abroad, while Amelie was a pupil at Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, west London.

“Both children were very interested in different cultures. They loved travelling abroad. That’s a very important part of who they were.”

Bill Harrop and Dr Sally Bradley, a married couple from Manchester, were also killed.

Mr Harrop was a retired firefighter. Dave Keelan, his former colleague, paid tribute to him on Monday.

“Bill served here for 30 years, retiring at the end of 2012,” Mr Keelan, the assistant county fire officer at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said.

“He was a much a loved and respected colleague and friend. He will be greatly missed.”

The couple had moved from Manchester to Australia after Mr Harrop’s retirement.

“[The couple’s] aim was always to experience life to the fullest. Kindred spirits they travelled the world together, safe in each other’s arms and with smiles across their faces,” Dr Bradley’s family said in a statement.

“They were the heartbeat of their families and the inspiration in their lives. They will be forever sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to the UK said that eight British nationals were so far known to have been killed in the attacks.

(Anita Jane Nicholson/Facebook)

British counterterror police were appealing for anyone with footage of the attacks or time leading up to them to pass it to officers for future inquests.

Officers have been deployed to airports across the UK to speak to anyone returning from Sri Lanka.

A small team of specialist officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, including family liaison officers, have been deployed to the country to support the families British victims and help with repatriation and the inquest process.

At least 321 people were killed and 500 wounded in the series of suicide bombings that ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

Nisanga Mayadunne, who studied at the University of London according to her Facebook profile, and her mother Shantha – a TV chef – were also reported to be among the dead.

Ms Mayadunne posted a photo of her family eating breakfast in the Shangri-La shortly before the blast.

The vast majority of the victims were Sri Lankan but the dead also included people from the US, Denmark, China, Japan, Portugal and Australia.

The tourism ministry said 39 foreign visitors were known to have been killed and another 28 were wounded.

Three children of Denmark’s richest man were among almost 300 victims killed.

Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were visiting the country over the Easter holiday.

Alma Holch Povlsen posted an Instagram photo of her three siblings on holiday, days before the Sri Lanka attacks (Instagram)

His daughter Alma posted a photo on Instagram days before the bombings, showing her three siblings sat by a palm-linked swimming pool and calling them “three little bears”.

A spokesperson for Mr Holch Povlsen confirmed three of the children had been killed in the Easter Sunday attacks, and Denmark’s foreign ministry said three Danes were among the victims.

Mr Holch Povlsen is the largest stakeholder in Asos and Scotland’s biggest private landowner.

He is the CEO and owner of retailer Bestseller, which operates several clothing chains.

The 46-year-old was ranked at 252 on a 2019 list of billionaires by Forbes, which reported his net worth as $7.9bn (£6.1bn).

He and his wife Anne hold an estimated 200,000 acres of the Scottish Highlands, and had planned to rewild the landscape to preserve it for future generations.

He previously wrote of a “deep connection” to the Scottish landscape, adding: “It is a project that we know cannot be realised in our lifetime, which will bear fruit not just for our own children but also for the generations of visitors who, like us, hold a deep affection the Scottish Highlands.”

Kieran Arasaratnam, a professor at Imperial College London Business School, was also staying at the Shangri-La and described “total chaos”.

“Everyone was running and a lot of people just didn’t know what was going on,” he told the BBC.

“People had blood on their shirts and there was someone carrying a girl to the ambulance. The walls and the floor were covered in blood.”

Tulip Siddiq, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said she had lost a relative in the attacks.

“It’s all so devastating,” she wrote on Twitter. “Hope everyone is keeping safe. Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”

Theresa May called the massacres “truly appalling”, adding: “No one should ever have to practise their faith in fear.”

The first American victim named was Dieter Kowalski, a technical services manager at the multinational publisher Pearson.

CEO John Fallon said the blast struck when he had just arrived at a hotel used by “many colleagues” for business trips over several years.

“Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Mr Fallon added.

“We mourn Dieter deeply today ... we’re angry that a good man, who took simple pleasure in fixing things, has been killed, along with many others, by evil men and women who know only how to destroy.”

Sri Lanka’s health minister named local militant group National Thowfeek Jamaath as the perpetrators and Isis later claimed responsibility.

The minister for telecommunications, Harin Fernando, claimed that “some intelligence officers” were aware of the plot and the prime minister has ordered an inquiry into potential failings.

People who live near St Anthony’s church leave their houses as the military try to defuse a suspected van before it explodes in Colombo (Reuters)

In Colombo, St Anthony’s Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted in the first wave of explosions shortly before 9am local time as worshippers attended morning services and tourists enjoyed their breakfasts.

At around the same time as the blasts in Colombo, explosions were also reported at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

A few hours later, two more blasts occurred just outside Colombo, one of them at a guesthouse, where two people were killed, the other near an overpass.

Three police officers were killed during a search at a suspected safe house on the outskirts of Colombo when its occupants are believed to have detonated explosives to prevent arrest.

Another device was destroyed by security services in a controlled explosion on Monday, sparking panic near St Anthony’s Shrine, and more than 80 bomb detonators were found at Colombo’s main bus depot and a nearby rubbish dump.

A curfew was imposed by the authorities on Sunday night and social media use was also restricted by the authorities, who claimed the move was to prevent the spread of false information.

The president was to declare a nationwide emergency that will go into effect at midnight on Monday, granting police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate without court orders.

Britons in Sri Lanka who need help were urged to call the High Commission in Colombo on +94 11 5390639, while people in the UK worried about friends or family should call the Foreign Office on 020 7008 1500.

Additional reporting by agencies