Tributes paid to Wigan "community superstar" whose death sparked a murder inquiry
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Dozens of people were present to pay tribute to Kunil Nur at a memorial event held by the Support for Wigan Arrivals Project (SWAP) at its centre in Penson Street.
Among them were Kunil’s dad Mohamed and two cousins who had travelled from London to attend the event.
Kunil, 44, died following an incident in Linney Square in Scholes on October 4, 2021. Police were initially called to a report of a disturbance in which a number of people had suffered minor injuries.
Kunil was taken to Royal Bolton Hospital by ambulance. He was discharged but died five days later.
In an emotional tribute, Mohamed, 88, said: “Because of the experience I’ve had, I can’t sleep at nights. I don’t sleep more than half an hour then I wake up and my son appears in front of me.
"It’s very hurtful and in pain about losing my son, who I loved most. He was educated and I put a lot of investment in him.
"I’m still seeking justice for my son. He was the one I was relying on to care for me. For him to die before me is a huge blow to my life.”
The organisers of the memorial event said the aim had been to bring family, friends and loved ones together to talk about Kunil and how generous, kind and loving he was. It was also a space for the wider community to come together in its continued commitment to justice for Kunil in the fight against racism within the community and its institutions.
Those present were given an update by the family’s lawyers on developments following Kunil’s death.
They were told the investigation into the tragic incident was now separated into three strands: the police’s own criminal investigation, an inquiry by the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) into the police’s handling of Kunil’s claims before his death that he was the victim of hate crime, and the coroner’s investigation into his death.
Daniel Cooper, a human rights lawyer representing the family, said Kunil had been “raising some concerns with the local authority and police about the harassment and abuse he was being subjected to at his home.”
Mr Cooper added: "On October 4 2021, there was a physical altercation between him and his neighbours. He suffered injuries including one to his head. He was treated in hospital but died later. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation.
“We are pushing and pushing police to carry out as effective and thorough an investigation as possible. That public pressure is just as important as the legal process. I know things are taking far too long, but I’m told they’re nearing a conclusion.”
Somali-born Kunil Nur originally arrived in Wigan more than a decade ago after fleeing his war-torn country. During that time, he established himself as an invaluable help to fellow refugees as they tried to assimilate in their new home, while also seeking asylum himself. He was multi-lingual and could speak Swedish, English, Arabic, Italian and his native Somali, and was dedicated to helping ease the transition for new arrivals to the Wigan community.
Mohamed Ibrahim, who is representing the family, described Kunil as a “superstar of the community,” with his work being featured on Radio 4 and Channel 5. After initially being based in London, he had come to Wigan to make a fresh start.
He said: “We have lost a community leader who was helping the community himself. I feel a special relationship to the family, because this could have happened to me. We are seeking justice as we believe this incident could have been prevented.
"It wasn’t just Kunil who died, it’s a life sentence for his father. The family are going through a terrible tragedy, but I can see you are too.”
The event heard testimony from many people who Kunil had helped in the past.
Mick Taylor, who is project co-ordinator at SWAP, said: “Kunil was not only a big guy, he was a larger than life character with a big smile. He was always happy to help and was an integral part of the social activities here.
"He was a key part of SWAP’s role in helping the refugee community in Wigan. He was dedicated to helping ease the transition for new arrivals to the Wigan community. He spoke five languages and often acted as a translator for newcomers.”
Mr Taylor said Kunil could be found at schools, local events and elections raising awareness about the issues faced by asylum seekers and refugees.
It’s understood that in the months before the tragedy, Kunil reported a number of incidents of racial abuse and harassment to Wigan Police. In the early hours of October 4 2021, there was a commotion between Kunil and neighbours which was attended by Wigan police officers. He was taken to the hospital but died five days later.
The facts of Kunil’s death remain under investigation by Greater Manchester Police.
More than a year after Kunil’s death, his family are still awaiting the conclusion of the investigation to find out whether any criminal charges will ensue.
Relatives said they were grateful to London Somali Youth Forum, SWAP, the Sudanese community in Wigan and Lisa Nandy MP, in particular, for their support in the mission to uncover the truth about Kunil’s death.
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “We continue to offer our deepest sympathies to Kunil Nur’s family for their loss.
“The Greater Manchester Police investigation into this tragic case is still ongoing, which council officers have been assisting in; as such we are not able to comment further at this time.
“Wigan Council takes hate related abuse in all forms very seriously, and all reported incidents are escalated to relevant agencies.”
GMP was also contacted for a comment but had not replied at the time of publication.