KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network): When Amron (not his real name) learned that his foster son was a suspect in the revenge arson attack that killed 23 people, he screamed in anguish.
"I couldn't accept it. I almost went crazy."
Amron, 64, who works as a guard, said he could not believe that the kind 15-year-old boy he knew could be involved in the case.
"He was a good kid. He never asked me for money. But he mixed with bad company."
He said the suspect's biological parents divorced a long time ago and his father had been absent for years.
Amron said he and his wife cared for the boy shortly after he was born in the early 2000s.
"Once he became a teenager, he started to come home late. I would wait up for him until the early morning. I would have gone to look for him myself but I don't own a vehicle.
"I worked hard to give the family a good life, the best way I can. All he needed to do was go to school, but he never listens to me," Amron said, adding he has no children of his own.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid on Monday (Sept 18) said the seven suspects arrested for their alleged involvement in the fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz last week may have been caught up in drugs at the time that they went missing from school.
Mahdzir said they were expelled from school at least a year ago because of truancy issues.
The minister said the suspects, aged between 11 and 18, could have started taking drugs when they were absent from school.
Meanwhile, less than 1km from the tahfiz lies a decrepit-looking rumah kongsi, the home of another suspect believed to be the leader of the group. The living quarters looked cramped, with at least seven families living there.
When The Star approached the father of the 16-year-old suspect for an interview, he declined.
"No, no. I am not feeling well now, I can't even walk properly," was his only comment, before shutting the door on the reporters.