KUALA LUMPUR: The seven teenagers who allegedly set fire to Darul Quran Ittifaqyah (DQI) tahfiz school last week did not show any sign of remorse even after being picked up by police.
Sources said the suspects, aged between 11 and 18, had put on tough faces when questioned about the heinous act, which led to the death of 23 people including students as young as 6.
"It's like they did not have any remorse. The teenagers did not even say that they were sorry for having caused the tragedy.
"All of them just looked down most of the time when being questioned about the incident. Maybe they had accepted that they were in the wrong.
"There was no crying whatsoever to show that they felt sorry, even the young ones."
Sources said initial investigations showed that the suspects had wanted exert revenge on the tahfiz school students following a verbal exchange recently, which also saw water bottles being thrown.
Meanwhile, residents near the school told the New Straits Times that they often saw the teenagers loitering at Taman Tasik Dato' Keramat, located behind the school.
One of them, a man in his 40s, said that he even recognised some of the suspects, based on the photographs that went viral on Saturday.
"Those arrested are from around this neighbourhood. I have seen them here many times, riding their motorcycles.
"From what we (residents) understand, most of them are children of immigrants who had made Dato' Keramat their home. The kids are born here but they don't go to school."
Another resident, a woman in her 60s, who also declined to be named, said for many years, the lake area had been used as a hangout by naughty kids, to smoke and possibly consume drugs.
"It had been that way for years. Sometimes, you can see large groups of children hanging around the lake.
Coincidentally, she claimed the neighbourhood had also been experiencing rising crime cases, especially thefts and house break-ins.
As for the fire, the housewife said she believed the teenagers could have been angry at the tahfiz students for telling them off.
"These tahfiz students, you know being kids, will simply tell them off which may have led to namecalling and verbal exchange." she said.
A tailor, Almy Zubir, 55, said he recognised the suspects as part of a group who always frequented the lake area.
"There hare many school students playing truant at the lake. Often, I saw them hanging around the park and sometimes at my flat area nearby.
"We had many break in cases, which residents here believed were committed by naughty kids who hang around here until early morning,
"However, I still could not see how these kids, as young as 11, are capable of this (burning down a school and cause deaths)," he said.
Yesterday, City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said police believed that they have solved the case following the teenagers' arrests.
He said police have established that the teenagers had intended to burn the school in Jalan Keramat Hujung over vengeance following a namecalling incident between them and DQI students recently.
Amar said the suspects, who are being investigated for murder and causing mischief by fire, had used two cooking gas cylinders and an accelerant to set the three-storey building on fire early morning Thursday.
Police investigators nabbed the teenagers between 6.30pm Friday and 2.30am Saturday from different locations in Dato' Keramat, following leads they found through CCTV recordings and initial forensics findings that suggested that the blaze involved foulplay. Additional reporting by Teoh Pei Ying and Teh Athira Yusof