I wasn’t going to write this blogpost, because it seemed both too close and too far away: in Edinburgh, about four miles from where I live. I know the area but I’ve never lived there.
I saw people tweeting, just before I signed off Twitter for the night: “f*cked up society we live in”, “it’s a very sick sad society we live in sometimes”.
I know where Mikaeel Kular lived: I used to do childminding not far from there – a family of four girls, ages five to twelve. The older three were, as far as their mother was concerned, old enough to visit with their friends around the neighbourhood without checking in with me providing they were home for tea: the youngest was (I ruled) not old enough to leave the garden unless she came in and got me to take her over to her friend’s garden.
“What could happen to her?” they asked me.
“She’s shorter than the parked cars,” I pointed out. “And cars come along this road very fast.”
The one time I looked out and she and her friend weren’t in the garden I ran out in a bit of a panic and discovered they’d asked their older sister to take them across the road to the other friend’s garden. They were a bit surprised that I was worried/cross: they’d been careful about cars, they said.
This was years and years ago. Even the youngest girl must be all the way grown up by this time, and certainly all of them will be old enough to understand now why I kept telling them: “don’t go outside the neighbourhood, don’t go where I don’t know where you are, come back for tea, don’t go into strange houses”. They were active, adventurous, brave, friendly kids, and I didn’t want to keep them in a cage when their mother was okay with them going out.
The girls told me they got called “Chink” sometimes by older kids: I was furious and didn’t know how to express how angry I was. I told them some people are really, really rude and stupid.
Yesterday on the 14 – the bus runs from Muirhouse, where Mikaeel had gone missing, to Leith Walk – I was sitting on the backwards-facing seat at the far end of the bus. I was facing a man and his child, age about three: the child was, as small children often are, curled up like a rabbit on the seat next to the dad, head resting against the dad’s leg, and the dad had his hand over the small child, as if he wanted to keep in contact with the child, remind himself that his child was still there.
Mikaeel Kular would have been about that age when he vanished.
All we know is that on Wednesday night, Mikaeel Kular went to bed about nine in the evening. That at quarter past seven on Thursday morning, his mother said she found him missing from his bed. By nine, his disappearance was public knowledge: the police were searching. By eleven, the police had released a picture of Mikaeel, taken just before Christmas, and were considering the possibility that he might have left the house voluntarily: everyone in the area was urged to look in their sheds, their gardens, check every hiding place that might have occurred to a small boy out in a cold night.
We know that police and neighbours continued to search as darkness fell on Thursday evening. We know that on Friday morning over two hundred volunteers gathered at the North Neighbourhood Centre in Pilton to be briefed on the continuing search. We know that by Friday evening, the police said they suspected some criminal action: it was beginning to be clear that, after two cold nights and a thorough search of everywhere a boy Mikaeel’s age could have gone, the outlook for finding him alive was bleak.
And we know that, just before midnight on Friday, a child’s body was found not far from the house in Kirkcaldy from which the family moved eighteen months ago, where Mikaeel’s aunt now lives: 24 miles away across the Forth Road Bridge, about a 35-minute drive if traffic was light.
That body has now been formally identified as Mikaeel Kular, and his mother has been arrested in connection with the death and will appear in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday.
[Update: it was pointed out to me on Facebook that neither the police, procurator fiscal nor crown office have said its the child’s mother that has been arrested: the mother part comes from Sky News a few minutes after the arrest and location of the body in Kirkcaldy. The Independent reports accurately that the official statement says only that a 33-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with the death.]
We don’t know if she killed him. We don’t know how Mikaeel Kular died. The police haven’t said. The neighbours say Mikaeel’s mother was distraught after Mikaeel went missing.
We do know: the whole neighbourhood turned out to try and find him. They organised a memorial service for him in the local church, and a gathering in West Pilton Park to say goodbye.
There’s all sorts of things being said about his mother now, but it’s worth remembering: we still don’t know much. The woman has four other children, Mikaeel’s twin sister and older children: let’s hope for their sake she isn’t guilty of his death, because that would make their loss so much worse.
The death of any child is a tragedy. If Mikaeel was killed, whoever murdered him was sad and sick.
But people searching, bringing their children with them to help figure out where a small child might be hiding, the sound a room of journalists made when they realised the lost child had died: that’s neither sad nor sick, not fucked-up: it’s how we are.
Nasim Azad, one of the locals who came to the memorial service, said:
“When you take everything away there’s nothing between us.
“We are a community; we care. The fact that we’re here today is because we care. It’s as simple as that.”
Rosdeep Kular, 33, appeared in private on Monday 21st January at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, charged under her married name – Adekoya – with the murder of her son Mikaeel. “She is also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice. She made no plea or declaration and was remanded in custody.”
This is very sad news.
Some newspapers covering the death of three-year-old Mikaeel Kular have been tempted into territory that would appear to take them very close to contempt of court.
Soon after the boy’s body was found, his mother, Rosdeep, was detained for questioning. The resulting articles about her in some Sunday titles contained speculation about her character that might be said to be prejudicial.
But they are unlikely to face legal action because the articles ran in England rather than Scotland, where Mrs Kular – now charged in connection with the death of her son – faces a potential trial.