THE shock of Mikaeel Kular’s death has drained the colour from Kirkcaldy’s Dunvegan Avenue. The sky above is a chilling greyish white, the trees surrounding the secluded housing estate bare. Only the high-visibility jackets of the police officers guarding number 32 bring some harsh, unwelcome yellow.
One stands in front of the house where little Mikaeel was born nearly four years ago. His aunt Pandeer Kular, known
as Pani, lives there with her teenage son. The modest bungalow has no fence or hedge; the paved front garden is cordoned off with police tape.
A less remarkable property would be hard to find. The brown front door has a floral pattern on the glass panels. In the front window, a burgundy vase of plastic flowers peeps out from drawn curtains. Round the side, blue and brown wheelie bins sit in front of ripped-out chipboard and planks. Of the forensic officers at work inside, there is no sign.
A neighbour has placed a small white teddy at the corner of the front drive, beside a traffic cone. Such tributes are always poignant. This solitary little bear, sodden with rain, is almost unbearable.
No neighbourhood expects to wake up on Saturday morning to the noise of a police helicopter overhead. Elaine Duncan, who lives round the corner in Skibo Place, had followed the story at work in Edinburgh on Friday. At 8am her husband got a text message telling him that the police activity had moved to his quiet housing estate. By the time she got up and turned on the news, the police tape was already up. She was living next door to a crime scene. By 10am she had been on the ITV news.
“I didn’t know them to talk to, just to say hello,” she says. “This is a friendly community.”
Her neighbour Lisa Maxwell adds: “I didn’t exactly know them but I knew they were there. Just like I know the guy across there washes his car every Sunday.”
The Strathallan estate is very much car-washing country, with many residents, including SNP MSP David Torrance, commuting to the capital. Off Oriel Road, the main route into Kirkcaldy from the south, it is a self-contained community of brick and rough-cast houses built in the 1980s and 1990s. There is a primary school but no shops or pub.
“Most people here have kids and dogs,” says Duncan, who has a four-year-old daughter, Isla. “In summer everyone’s out in their front gardens. The kids are playing in the streets or in the woods.”
Lisa Maxwell’s 11-year-old son, Samuel, plays in the woods around his home on his own – with his mother’s warnings about not talking to strangers ringing in his ears. There are tree swings and dens, as well as bold peacocks that wander throughout the streets and gardens as if they own the place. The dog walkers know each other by sight, and all the dogs by name.
Last night, as Mikaeel’s mother Rosdeep Kular was being questioned by police following the discovery of her son’s body in woodland near the house where he was born, a diverse picture of a single parent who enjoyed nights out in Edinburgh began to emerge.
She is a beauty therapist, with an HND in beauty therapy from Fife College, and runs her own health and beauty studio. Often known as Rosie, her father Gurbux, who was from India, died when she was in her teens.
Her 60-year-old mother Harjinder remarried twice following his death, most recently to Dr Bangarpet Krishnaswamy, 69, a GP and property developer. He is also a director of a nursing home company, East Neuk Healthcare.
Rosdeep Kular went to Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy, Fife, and after graduating from Fife College, she married Omotoso Adekoya, a Nigerian taxi driver, at the age of 24. Three months later she gave birth to her first child, swiftly followed by two more.
She and Adekoya later split, although his mother reportedly said that he was devastated by the breakdown of the marriage, and still lived close to Kular and his children.
In 2010 she gave birth to twins, one of whom was Mikaeel. The children are understood not to have seen their father, who is Pakistani, since.
On her Facebook page, she appeared in photographs in bars and nightclubs across Scotland wearing glamorous outfits and with her sleek hair carefully styled.
In one she is pictured with Mohammed Abdi, who died last year in an alleged shooting incident. Abdi, whose father was an imam at the Edinburgh Central Mosque, died on 26 April last year and is understood to have visited Kular’s flat in the past. Six men deny his killing, and a trial will take place in April.
In an online profile she wrote: ‘Just me, myself and I… oh yeah, with a brood of five monsters, six if you count the man indoors!’ In another she said: “Work full time which is a bit crapola but it’s got to be done eh!”
How will the death of Mikaeel affect the quiet community in Fife where his body was found? On Saturday morning there is a feeling of hatches being battened down. Parents usher children out of cars and into houses, struggling to change the subject away from the police officers, satellite trucks and men with telephoto lenses who have taken over their normally empty streets.
To the right of number 32, a man emerges to ask an officer some questions. An older lady appears, opens the door for him and he scuttles inside. In the house to the left, a television flickers in the front room. There are no other signs of life.
“I would like to say that this won’t change this area,” says a passer-by called Stewart, looking at the film crews gathering around the police tape. “But I suppose that depends on the outcome. If it’s a family thing or a random stranger.” Earlier in the week two people, both neighbours of the Rosdeep’s sister, said they had known that social workers had been involved with the family.
In the rest of Kirkcaldy, there is no other subject of conversation. Heather Wells, from the nearby village of Kinghorn, drove past the police car at the bottom of Dunvegan Avenue on her way to Aldi.
“It’s unimaginable,” she says, loading shopping into her boot. “That’s why everybody’s so badly shocked. When I saw that police car I felt affected, even though I’m not part of it.”
“I’m floored,” says Lynsey Hands, from Rosyth. “When I got up for work and heard they had found a body in Kirkcaldy I immediately thought of Oriel Road. Then I saw the police car. It put chills up me. I had to phone my husband when I got to work for a wee bit of comfort.”
As the parent of a seven-year-old son, Hands has found the coverage of Mikaeel’s disappearance particularly affecting. “My voice is quivering talking about it,” she says.
As the light begins to fade, the police operation carries on. The cordon has moved deeper into the estate, to give the
forensics team better access to the wooded area behind the Kulars’ house. A fire engine has delivered portable toilets. Grim-faced officers march in squads up and down the narrow streets.
With the rain off, the children are out on their bikes, playing among the press pack, used to the circus already.
Jenny Ross has driven from Glenrothes to deliver a bouquet to the small pile beside the police barrier. She slept
fitfully on Friday night, checking Facebook for news of the search for Mikaeel. “He was so young, so vulnerable,” she says. “Anybody, but especially a parent, would appreciate just how tragic this is.”