Samir Al-Saadi, Arab News
JEDDAH, 3 March 2008Early morning shoppers at a supermarket in Jeddah were left reeling yesterday, with some falling unconscious, after a well-built Syrian man clinched a knife and decapitated his 15-month-old nephew in front of his mother in the store’s fruit and vegetable section.
In a brutal murder that has shocked the city, the 25-year-old man beheaded the boy, who was out shopping with his mother — in full glare of shoppers and staff at Al-Marhaba supermarket on Sari Street around 9.30 a.m. The man, who is the boy’s maternal uncle, apparently killed the boy following a dispute with his sister and brother-in-law.
Eyewitnesses said that the man picked up a knife from inside the store and severed the boy’s head. The mother and a shopper standing close by fainted, while several other stood in shock and disbelief over what had happened.
A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Arab News, “The murderer was in a dispute with the boy’s mother and her husband. He chopped off the boy’s head in front of the mother to get back at her.” He added that the mother has been left traumatized and is in hospital. The boy’s father was at work at the time of the incident.
Following the murder, police sealed off the supermarket while forensic experts gathered evidence. Ambulances were also called to the scene. The supermarket reopened for business at around 1.15 p.m. “It happened so quickly. Before people could intervene, the man had cut more than half way through the child’s neck,” said Abu Muhammad, a grandfather in his mid-60s.
A Saudi till attendant at a nearby cafe said, “One of my colleagues went to see what was going on and returned shivering. He saw the kid’s body and so we gave him the day off. He was in a bad state.”
An eyewitness, who lives in the neighborhood, said that the victim’s family lived close by and frequented the supermarket. “I’ve seen the murderer carrying the same child and playing with him on a number of occasions,” he added.
“No one could bear the gruesome sight of the boy’s decapitated body lying on the floor,” said Muneer, a Turkish car mechanic, who works at a garage close by. “How could someone do such a thing? I just can’t understand it… I still can’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head.
When the store reopened, employees were still in a state of shock. A guard, standing at the entrance, stood frozen and oblivious to the rush of shoppers. Pain and anguish were writ large on his face.