Billionaire ASOS owner Anders Holch Povlsen has lost three of his four children in the Sri Lanka terror attacks on Easter Sunday that killed a total of 290 people.
A spokesman for Povlsen, Denmark’s richest man who also owns a huge estate in Scotland, confirmed the deaths but did not say which of his four children had been killed.
Just days before the devastating attacks, one of Povlsen’s children, Alma, shared a holiday snap of her siblings Astrid, Agnes and Alfred, next to a pool.
Sri Lankan officials have blamed a little-known Islamist group called National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) for the terrorist attacks, adding that the organization had ‘international help’, raising fears that ISIS was involved.
Islamist extremist material has been recovered from a hotel room allegedly used by the suspects in the Sri Lanka hotel bombings, MailOnline can reveal.
The seven bombers coordinated their attacks targeting five-star hotels and churches on Easter Sunday in an apparent deliberate attempt to target westerners and Christians.
Manisha Gunasekera, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, has said eight British nationals were killed in the attacks. In total 32 foreigners have been confirmed dead including two joint UK-US nationals and a number of Dutch, Turkish, Australian and Portuguese people.
Also among the confirmed dead are a British BP lawyer, her 11-year-old son, and her daughter. Anita Nicholson was having breakfast with her family at the Shangri La hotel in Colombo when two suicide bombers walked in and blew themselves up.
Another two British teenagers are feared to be among the dead, but this has not been confirmed.
Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said: ‘We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country. There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.’
The NTJ were the subject of an intelligence warning ten days before the attacks. The warning said they were planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.
Police sources confirmed that the terrorists who targeted the Shangri La hotel had ‘pamphlets and paraphernalia’ associated with extremist Islamic ideology in their hotel room.
The killers had checked into room 616, where investigators also found two iPhone chargers.
Detectives told local media that the Shangri-La blast was a result of at least 55lbs of C-4 plastic explosives, though the conclusions await formal confirmation by a Government analyst.
Povlsen, 46, is married to Anne Storm Pedersen. The pair met when Anne began working in sales for Bestseller.
The pair have 11 Scottish estates, and a castle, covering an astonishing 221,000 acres. He is Britain’s biggest private landowner, surpassing the Dukes of Atholl with 144,000 acres and the Prince of Wales, who owns 130,000 acres.
He began building this ever-growing property portfolio 12 years ago, in the autumn of 2006, with the £7.9 million acquisition of Glenfeshie, a 42,000-acre patch of the Cairngorms National Park.
Povlsen and Anne are said to have a ‘200-year vision’ for their estates, which involves rewilding the land, reports the Times.
His father, Troels, began his fashion empire with a single store in 1975. Povlsen now employs 15,000 people and owns brands such as Jack & Jones and Vero Moda, along with almost 30 per cent of ASOS.
Its success has helped him build a fortune estimated at £5.4 billion. Povlsen and his wife live at Constantinsborg, a neo-classical former royal palace near Aarhus. The couple send their four children to state schools.
In a statement, Bestseller’s spokesperson Jesper Stubkier said: ‘I can confirm that three children have been killed. ‘We have no further comment and we ask that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.’
Blasts ripped through landmarks around the capital Colombo, and on Sri Lanka’s east coast, targeting Christians, hotel guests and foreign tourists yesterday. More than 500 people were wounded.
Brit Alex Nicholson, 11, his younger sister Annabel and his mother, Anita, 42, were killed in the Table One cafe on the second-floor of the Shangri La hotel in the country’s capital, Colombo, at around 8.30am, The Telegraph reported.
They were on a family holiday. Alex’s father Ben Nicholson survived the blast. Lawyer Shakya Wickramanayake told the Times Mr Nicholson found his son’s body at a mortuary
She said: ‘The sister and mother were found dead before we met Mr Nicholson. Alex was found in the police mortuary mid-afternoon.’ The Nicholsons worked as lawyers based in Singapore, according to their online profiles.
Mrs Nicholson, a former legal adviser to HM Treasury, moved to Singapore to work for oil firm BP in April 2012. According to her Linked profile her current employer was Anglo America, the mining company.
Mr Nicholson was a partner in the Singapore office of Kennedys Legal Solutions and advises clients on insurance law. An explosion went off in a van near one of the churches attacked as bomb squad officials attempted to defuse it on Monday.
‘The van exploded when the bomb defusing unit of the STF (Special Task Force) and air force tried to diffuse the bomb,’ a witness said.
A six-foot pipe bomb was later found by air force personal on a routine patrol at the country’s main airport Bandaranaike International, also known as Katunayake Airport or Colombo International.
‘A PVC pipe which was six feet in length containing explosives in it was discovered,’ Air Force Spokesman Gihan Seneviratne told the Sri Lankan Sunday Times.
The airport was put ‘on lockdown’ while the security forces examined and detonated the device, according to reports from the scene.
It’s not clear what kind of detonation method or target was planned, but Air Force Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne said the bomb was large enough to have caused damage to a 400-meter radius.
Sri Lankan authorities also found 87 bomb detonators in the capital earlier today. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekaran said police found 12 detonators scattered at the main bus depot and hours later found another 75 detonators at a garbage dump in the same area.
Yesterday morning, six bombs went off in quick succession before another two blasts two hours later in Sri Lanka’s worst violence since the end of its decades-long civil war in 2009.
Three of the near-simultaneous blasts targeted worshippers attending Easter services on the holiest day in the Christian calendar. Families on holiday were massacred by three further explosions at luxury hotels in Colombo as they sat down to enjoy breakfast at around 8.30am.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the bodies of at least 32 foreigners were recovered. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the the ‘horrifying attacks’ which he said had killed ‘several British nationals’.
Further fatalities are said to include three Indians, two Turks, two Australians, one Portuguese citizen and an unknown number of Dutch and Chinese nationals.
Twenty-four suspects have been arrested, as it emerged the country’s police chief had warned of an Islamic extremist plot to target ‘prominent churches’ just 10 days earlier, but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has now ordered curfew with immediate effect ‘until further notice’ while access to social media messaging services has been shut down.
In Colombo, St Anthony’s Shrine, a Roman Catholic church, the Cinnamon Grand; Shangri-La; and Kingsbury hotels were targeted in the first wave of explosions.
At the Shangri-La, security camera footage showed two men detonating devices in the Table One restaurant and a hotel corridor. Other blasts hit St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
Later in the afternoon, two died in a strike at a hotel near a zoo in the south of Colombo, before a suspected suicide bomber killed police officers in the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital, as police moved in on the suspected terrorist safe house. In all 24 suspects were arrested.
Sri Lanka defence secretary Harsha de Silva said: ‘Horrible scenes, I saw many body parts strewn all over.’ The country went into lockdown amid worrying reports there had been missed opportunities to stop the carefully planned bombings.
Prime Minister Theresa May joined leaders across the world in condemning the atrocities while President Donald Trump vowed to ‘stand ready to help’.
‘The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear,’ Mrs May said.
Pope Francis denounced the ‘cruel violence’ of the Easter Sunday attacks and urged prayer for all those affected. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned ‘the cowardly attacks on our people’.
Millions of tourists visit Sri Lanka every year but political crisis and religious tension have placed the industry under threat in recent months.
Ten days ago, according to documents seen by the AFP new agency, Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers warning Islamist suicide bombers planned to hit ‘prominent churches’.
‘A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,’ the alert said.
The NTJ is a small radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka which has no history of mass fatal attacks, but came to prominence last year linked to the vandalism and desecration of Buddhist statues.
Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe admitted that information about the attacks had been received in advance but denied having direct knowledge himself.
‘We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken. Neither I nor the ministers were kept informed,’ he said following intense anger in the community.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today, and the tragic news of more than 200 people killed, including several British nationals.
‘To target those gathered for the simple act of worship on Easter Sunday is unspeakably wicked.
‘Everyone has a right to practise their faith in peace, safety and security but tragedies like this, and the one in Christchurch, remind us that there are some who hate these rights and freedoms.
‘These despicable acts were carried out at a time when millions of Christians celebrate Easter while living under the shadow of persecution. Many gather in churches at risk of attack; countless more will have suffered threats or discrimination.
‘The UK stands in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world and with the government and people of Sri Lanka. My prayers are with all the victims and their families.’
The country’s President Maithripala Sirisena said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called the attacks ‘cowardly’.
‘I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,’ the PM said.
A social media ban was also put in place ‘in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread’ in what officials said was a temporary measure, alongside an indefinite curfew.
The magnitude of the violence recalls the bombings perpetrated by the separatist Tamil Tigers that targeted a bank, a shopping centre, a Buddhist temple and hotels popular with tourists a decade ago.
In 2009, Sri Lankan security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils.
Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
While anti-Muslim bigotry has swept the island in recent years, fed by Buddhist nationalists, the island also has no history of violent Muslim militants. The country’s small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment in recent years.
Two government ministers have alluded to intelligence failures.
Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted@ ‘Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.’
He said his father had heard of the possibility of an attack as well and had warned him not to enter popular churches.
Mano Ganeshan, the minister for national integration, said his ministry’s security officers had been warned by their division about the possibility that two suicide bombers would target politicians.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the attacks could have been thwarted. ‘We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided. Why this was not prevented?’ he said.