A heartbroken husband has explained how his wife and two children were set to join him for a new life in America before they were killed.
Aboubacarr Drammeh was in the process of securing visas for his wife Fatoumatta and their two young daughters so they could join him in Minnesota, where he works as a biomedical technologist.
But his dreams of a happy future were cruelly snatched away when a fire killed both his children and later his wife, whom he’d been married to since 2014.
Aboubacarr, who was introduced to Fatoumatta through her uncle, said they had so much to look forward to as a family.
“The plan was to move Fatoumatta and the kids to America so we could all live together. We had an interview booked for November 29 and that would have been the final interview before we would hopefully have secured their visas.
“That’s not going to happen now and I can’t understand why.”
The fire that killed his family broke out at their flat in Fairisle Close, Clifton, in the early hours of Sunday 20 November.
Three-year-old Fatimah and one-year-old Naeemah died shortly after arriving at Queen’s Medical Centre, while Fatoumatta died two days later.
Aboubacarr, who like Fatoumatta is a devout Ahmadi Muslim, revealed the moment his world came crashing down. “It was 5am when I got the call. I was praying and afterwards I saw I had missed five calls from the children’s grandmother. I called back and she started crying. She said there had been a fire and the kids didn’t make it and that Fatoumatta was in the intensive care unit.
“I just went straight to the airport and flew back alone to the UK. I’ve done that journey so many times but all the other times it’s been exciting because I was going to see my family. This time around… I still can’t recall it. It’s just a blur.”
He described the past week as the hardest of his life and that he’ll never get over spending his 40th birthday, which was on Wednesday, in the hospital mortuary.
“I had to go in there and see the bodies,” he said. “That was just so hard.”
He described his wife as a gentle person who was kind to everyone she met. “Fatoumatta was a very faithful person,” Aboubacarr said. “She was a Muslim and she truly believed in her faith. She was caring and very compassionate. She’d help whoever she could.
“She loved the kids. They did a lot of baking together and fun things in the house. They would make cookies and cupcakes and loved putting the icing on the cakes.
“We also really enjoyed vacations. We’ve been to places like Edinburgh, Plymouth and The Gambia, where we’re both from.
“We just wanted to bring the kids up to be role models and good citizens. We wanted to move to the US but regardless of where we are in the world the most important thing to us was to give them a better life and a good education.”
He added his wife – who moved to Nottingham aged 14 with her Gambian parents – was a “very passionate person” and “really cared about people”.
“She used to work for St John Ambulance and delivered many babies as part of her work. She worked in various care homes looking after the elderly.
“She was just interested in helping others. She really wanted to pursue a career in women’s health.”
Aboubacarr revealed he last spoke to his wife a few hours before the fire. He said: “I spoke to her on that Saturday night at about midnight. We joked among ourselves and kept talking about the upcoming trip and about her coming to America. We last saw each other in September when we went bowling. It was her first time bowling and we went to the cinema in Beeston. Family was so important to us and spending time together. It was really important to us.”
Aboubacarr also paid an emotional tribute to his two young daughters, who he would talk to every day on FaceTime.
He said Fatimah, who attended nursery school at The Milford Academy, enjoyed playing and watching children’s TV. He said: “She loved Omar & Hana and then she started getting into Peppa Pig. She also loved nursery rhymes and when on FaceTime with me she’d make me do the ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ song.”
He described their youngster daughter Naeemah, who turned one in July, as someone who also brought him a huge amount of joy. He said: “Naeemah also enjoyed TV shows, but her favourite thing was milk. She’d eat a lot of foods like rice but she really enjoyed milk. She started walking a little late but then she became confident and started dragging things around and moving stuff.
“They were both really happy children. They loved spending time with their grandparents and got along really well as siblings.”
Other family members have also paid tribute to Fatoumatta and the two children.
Dawda Dibba, 44, who is Fatoumatta’s uncle, said: “She was an incredible person with incredible passion. She was someone who cared a lot about people. As soon as she met you, you were part of the family. She was such a bubbly and nice person and had a really good sense of humour.
“The two children will be greatly missed. Other children in the family loved playing with them and it is very hard to explain to them what has happened.
“As a family, this has broken us. You can’t recover from this.”
Bubacarr Dibba, 47, another of Fatoumatta’s uncles, who flew in from Germany following the fire, added: “There are many ways to remember her. I will always remember her through the videos and messages she sent of the children. She was someone that put everyone else before herself.
“I always thought she would pull through, that was our last hope. We had hoped up until the last minute. We thought it would be a long road to recovery but we thought she was going to make it.”
A joint police and fire investigation concluded the fire was started deliberately and on Thursday detectives charged Jamie Barrow, of Fairisle Close, Clifton, with their murders. The 31-year-old appeared in court on Friday and was remanded into custody.
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