A British dad has confirmed the deaths of his “perfect wife” and “amazing” children in a heartbreaking statement following the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka.
Lawyer Ben Nicholson was waiting for breakfast with wife Anita, 42, son Alex, 14, and daughter Annabel, 11, when the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital city of Colombo was targeted – one of eight locations hit in a series of blasts that killed at least 290 people, including eight Britons.
Mr Nicholson said the attack happened as the family were sitting at their restaurant table, adding: “Mercifully, all three of them died instantly and with no pain or suffering.”
His statement continued: “I am deeply distressed at the loss of my wife and children. Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children.
“The holiday we had just enjoyed was a testament to Anita’s enjoyment of travel and providing a rich and colourful life for our family, and especially our children.
“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.
“Anita, Alex and Annabel leave behind a large extended family and many close and cherished friends who are now grieving this tragic loss. We shall all miss them dearly. We are all grateful for the many expressions of support and good wishes.”
The family lived in Singapore, where Mrs Nicholson worked as managing counsel for mining company Anglo American.
The British high commissioner in Sri Lanka tweeted: “Sadly, we can now confirm that at least eight British nationals were killed in yesterday’s horrific attacks in Sri Lanka.”
Two of the eight Britons who died had dual US citizenship.
Other victims included three children of the Danish billionaire and ASOS shareholder Anders Holch Povlsen, whose family were on a trip to the country as the coordinated attacks took place at various hotels and churches.
The deaths of the Povlsen children were confirmed by his spokesman.
Mr Povlsen is the largest shareholder in online clothes retailer ASOS and owns other brands such as Jack&Jones – and he is also the largest private landowner in Scotland.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said she had also lost a relative in the attacks, posting on Twitter: “It’s all so devastating. Hope everyone is keeping safe. Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”
At least 39 foreigners are thought to have died in the attacks, according to officials, and more than 500 people in total have been injured.
One victim was a young woman who had studied at the University of London – Sri Lankan Nisanga Mayadunne and her mother Shantha reportedly died at the Shangri-La.
The former UK student posted a photo of her eating breakfast with her family hours before the blast.
Radha Fonseca, a friend of Nisanga, told Gulf News: “When I heard the news, I was left numbed and shocked. I don’t know what more to say.
“Nisanga was a very popular girl in college.
“Besides the fact that she was bright and smart, her mother Shantha Mayadunne, a renowned chef, made her more popular in college. She was well respected and an inspirational chef for Sri Lankans.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the attack as “absolutely devastating and despicable”, adding: “For this to happen on Easter Day is something that will shake people around the world, of all faiths and none, to the core.”
Emergency powers have come into force in Sri Lanka as officials work to identify those responsible for the attacks.
The powers will allow police and the military officers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.
Police are to investigate whether warnings of attacks were ignored or missed before the violence in eight locations across the country.
The Sri Lankan government has also blocked all social media in a bid to “ease tensions”.