Family Pay Tribute To Murdered Preacher

9 April 2015, 12:01 | Updated: 9 April 2015, 12:16

The family of a Syrain-born preacher found shot dead in a car in northwest London say he was "the most peaceful man you could ever wish to meet"

Abdul-Hadi Arwani, a critic of the Assad regime, was discovered in a parked car in Wembley on Tuesday morning.

Counter terrorism detectives have taken over responsibility for the investigation into the death of the father of six.

In a statement issued on behalf of Mr Arwani's family and posted on social media, they said they were "in a state of shock".

It said: "We have not slept and our minds are a blur as to what happened and why.

"The police are currently investigating this brutal murder. As an individual, a family and a community, we are helping the police to solve this heinous crime."

Pleading for anyone with information to come forward, they described Mr Arwani as "a very well loved figure in West London".

He added: "He was the most peaceful man you could ever wish to meet. He just loved to help people. He did not care what your background, race or status was.

"He did not care if you were rich or poor. He just wanted to help people in need.

"He was an old fashioned man who thought love and understanding could cure all of the world's ills. He was always smiling and joking with everyone he met.

"He showed so much love to his congregation and to his community as an imam and a loving father to us,his six children."

The statement said Mr Arwani, 48,  was "actively involved in the fight against extremism" and a "British citizen who loved the people of this country".

It added: "He spoke up and out against the crime of terror and oppression wherever he found it."

Speaking outside his home in East Acton, Mr Arwan's son Morhaf, 20, said they were "at a loss" to understand what had happened.

Scotland Yard disclosed yesterday that detectives from its counter-terrorism command were now carrying out the investigation "because of their expertise in the management of investigations with international dimensions and an established liaison network abroad".

Officers from the Homicide and Major Crime Command were initially in charge of the inquiry.

The Metropolitan Police said that the probe was in its "very early stages" and officers remained "open-minded" about the motive for the shooting.

A post-mortem examination will take place today.

Mr Arwani, was a preacher at the An Noor mosque in Acton, west London, from 2005 to 2011.

Visitors to the mosque spoke of their shock and said that the cleric did not hold radical views.

One visitor said: "He was a beloved man, he used to give lectures, and teach. He was well loved in the community around here. And he wasn't radical or anything, that wasn't him."

Another said: "He was a very good man, he was a nice man. He didn't have any enemies in this community."

A statement posted on the wall of the centre read: "We have with great sadness heard of the unfortunate death of Shaykh Abdulhadi Arwani who was the former iman of the An Noor Cultural and Community Centre who served from 2005 to 2011. He will be sadly missed."

Mr Arwani, who is thought to have fled Syria as a teenager after surviving the Hama massacre in 1982, has been described as an outspoken critic of President Bashar Assad's regime.

He is believed to have attended protests against the regime outside the Syrian embassy in London in 2012.

Police were called to reports of a man with gunshot injuries to his chest at 11.15am on Tuesday.

They found Mr Arwani in a dark coloured Volkswagen Passat in Greenhill, at the junction with The Paddocks. He was pronounced dead at the scene around half an hour later.