Sri Lanka terror attack: Funeral service is held for Asos billionaire’s three children10 min read

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An emotional funeral service is being held for the three children of the Asos billionaire who were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

Fashion tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen was seen comforting his wife Anne and daughter Astrid as the flower-covered coffins of his three children Alfred, Alma and Agnes emerged from their hearses at Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark today.   

At a memorial service last week Mr Povlsen described the family’s loss as ‘utterly incomprehensible’ but thanked family, friends and neighbours in the Danish town of Brande for their love and support and promised to come through the tragedy ‘together’. 

Today’s funeral service was attended by members of the Danish Royal Family and the country’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. 

He was staying with his family at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo when it was hit by suicide bombers Zahran Hashim, suspected plot mastermind, and Ilham Ibrahim, the son of a millionaire spice merchant.

His son Alfred and two daughters Alma and Agnes were killed in the blast, while his third daughter Astrid survived.  

It is thought he was injured in the attacks himself, though it is not clear how seriously he was hurt.

Flowers are pictured covering the coffins of ASOS billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s three children Alfred, Alma and Agnes as they arrive at Aarhus Catherdral in Denmark today. He is pictured with his daughter Astrid, who survived and his wife Anne

The wife of Asos tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, Anne, is pictured holding back tears as she watches her children's coffins emerge, embracing her husband and surviving daughter Astrid

The wife of Asos tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, Anne, is pictured holding back tears as she watches her children’s coffins emerge, embracing her husband and surviving daughter Astrid 

Denmark's Crown Princess Mary (pictured centre) and her children Princess Isabella (centre being held by her mother), Prince Vincent (left), and Princess Josephine (right) attended the funeral service for the three children

Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary (pictured centre) and her children Princess Isabella (centre being held by her mother), Prince Vincent (left), and Princess Josephine (right) attended the funeral service for the three children 

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne with their surviving daughter Astrid who wipes a tear away at the funeral at Aarhus Cathedral

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne with their surviving daughter Astrid who wipes a tear away at the funeral at Aarhus Cathedral

Denmark's Crown Princess Mary alongside her daughters Princess Josephine and Princess Isabella

Crown Princess Mary consoling Princess Isabella

Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary alongside her daughters Princess Josephine and Princess Isabella (left) and consoling Isabella (right)

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (right) also attended the funeral today where hundreds paid their respects

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (right) also attended the funeral today where hundreds paid their respects  

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne stand before the three flower-adorned coffins of their children as their surviving daughter Astrid holds a bouquet of balloons outside Aarhus Cathedral

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne stand before the three flower-adorned coffins of their children as their surviving daughter Astrid holds a bouquet of balloons outside Aarhus Cathedral

An emotional funeral service is being held for the three children of the billionaire Asos tycoon who were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka

An emotional funeral service is being held for the three children of the billionaire Asos tycoon who were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka

Friends and family left floral arrangements outside the church in Copenhagen, Denmark, earlier today as Anders Holch Povlsen held a funeral for his son Alfred and daughters Alma and Agnes today

Friends and family left floral arrangements outside the church in Copenhagen, Denmark, earlier today as Anders Holch Povlsen held a funeral for his son Alfred and daughters Alma and Agnes today

Mr Povlsen was staying with his family at the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital of Colombo when it was hit by suicide bombers Zahran Hashim, suspected plot mastermind, and Ilham Ibrahim, the son of a millionaire spice merchant

Mr Povlsen was staying with his family at the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital of Colombo when it was hit by suicide bombers Zahran Hashim, suspected plot mastermind, and Ilham Ibrahim, the son of a millionaire spice merchant

It is thought he was injured in the attacks himself, though it is not clear how seriously he was hurt

It is thought he was injured in the attacks himself, though it is not clear how seriously he was hurt

Denmark’s ambassador to India, Peter Taksøe-Jensen, confirmed that one family member was injured but was discharged and returned home. 

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At a memorial service in Brande, Denmark, last Thursday, the family expressed their loss as ‘utterly incomprehensible’ in a text message. 

Reading the message to a crowd of around 700 well-wishers, pastor Arne Holst-Larsen said: ‘The loss of our beloved children Alma, Agnes and Alfred are completely incomprehensible.

‘With the many lovely people we have around us, close friends, talented colleagues and our loving family we will come together through it. 

‘We greatly appreciate the humanity that is also shown in Brande tonight – not only to our families and children, but to all the victims of the cruel acts in Sri Lanka.’ 

Mr Povlsen’s children were killed just days after he revealed plans to hand his Scottish estates to them, in the hope they’d carry on his legacy of conservation. 

He has been working via his Wildland project to ‘rewild’ parts of Scotland, bringing back endangered species by reviving long-lost habitats.

In an open letter posted on the firm’s website, Mr Povlsen and wife Anne Storm Pedersen wrote that the project will take longer than a lifetime to complete and so would be carried on by their children after they died.

He wrote: ‘From our home at Glenfeshie, both Anne and myself – our children and our parents too – have long enjoyed a deep connection with this magnificent landscape. 

‘As the holdings have grown and our common vision for the work becomes ever clearer, we have incorporated the entirety of the project into a venture we call Wildland. 

‘It’s a significant and lifelong commitment that we have made – not just for ourselves but for the Scottish people and Scottish nature too – a commitment which we believe in deeply. 

Anders Holch Povlsen, his wife Anne and their surviving daughter Astrid walk towards the three hearses of their murdered children Alfred, Alma and Agnes

Anders Holch Povlsen, his wife Anne and their surviving daughter Astrid walk towards the three hearses of their murdered children Alfred, Alma and Agnes

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne accompany their surviving daughter Astrid as she prepares to cut a bouquet of balloons from one of the coffins

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne accompany their surviving daughter Astrid as she prepares to cut a bouquet of balloons from one of the coffins

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne accompany their surviving daughter Astrid outside Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark on Saturday

Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne accompany their surviving daughter Astrid outside Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark on Saturday

Povlsen, 46, and Anne Storm Pedersen, pictured together, met when Anne began working in sales for Bestseller. He is Denmark's richest man, with his father passing down ownership of the international clothes retailer chain when he was just 28 years old

Povlsen, 46, and Anne Storm Pedersen, pictured together, met when Anne began working in sales for Bestseller

Pictured are daughters Astrid and Agnes alongside son Alfred, in an image taken by daughter Alma. Mr Povlsen has confirmed that Agnes, Alfred and Alma died in the terror attack, while Astrid survived

Pictured are daughters Astrid and Agnes alongside son Alfred, in an image taken by daughter Alma. Mr Povlsen has confirmed that Agnes, Alfred and Alma died in the terror attack, while Astrid survived

Mr Povlsen and his wife described the loss of their three children as 'utterly incomprehensible' but vowed to overcome the tragedy 'together' (pictured are Astrid, Agnes and Alfred in an image taken by Alma)

Mr Povlsen and his wife described the loss of their three children as ‘utterly incomprehensible’ but vowed to overcome the tragedy ‘together’ (pictured are Astrid, Agnes and Alfred in an image taken by Alma)

The Shangri La Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka is pictured after it was targeted by two suicide bombers on Easter Sunday morning

The Shangri La Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka is pictured after it was targeted by two suicide bombers on Easter Sunday morning

Mr Povlsen was staying with his family at the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital of Colombo, when it was targeted by two suicide bombers identified as suspected plot mastermind Zahran Hashim and Ilham Ibrahim

Mr Povlsen was staying with his family at the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital of Colombo, when it was targeted by two suicide bombers identified as suspected plot mastermind Zahran Hashim and Ilham Ibrahim

A map showing where the eight blasts went off, six of them in very quick succession on Easter Sunday morning

A map showing where the eight blasts went off, six of them in very quick succession on Easter Sunday morning  

‘We wish to restore our parts of the Highlands to their former magnificent natural state and repair the harm that man has inflicted on them. 

‘There are many vulnerable properties across all of the holdings that we have the wonderful and privileged opportunity to rehabilitate and restore to life; there are also archaeologically important structures that we have the responsibility to protect.

‘Our vision of Wildland is of a project that provides security and an enduring connection, not just for those that work and live on our estates but also for the greater communities.

‘We are working towards an entirely sustainable model; everything in balance a project that can endure beyond what Anne and myself can ever expect to see in our own lifetime.’ 

Just days before the devastating attacks, Alma had shared a holiday snap of her siblings next to a pool. 

Sri Lankan officials have blamed a little-known Islamist group called National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) for the terrorist attacks, adding that the organisation had ‘international help’.

A video has emerged of eight men pledging allegiance to ISIS and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before the attack.  

The bombers co-ordinated their attacks targeting five-star hotels and churches on Easter Sunday in an apparent deliberate attempt to target westerners and Christians.

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday the security forces would ‘eradicate terrorism’ after the devastating suicide attacks and restore stability before a presidential election due by year-end.

The death of Mr Polvsen's three children came just days after he revealed plans to pass on his estates in Scotland - where he is the country's largest land-owner - to them after he died

The death of Mr Polvsen’s three children came just days after he revealed plans to pass on his estates in Scotland – where he is the country’s largest land-owner – to them after he died 

Memorial services were held for the three children in Stavtrup, a suburb of Aarhus where the family lives, last Thursday, ahead of the funeral today, as a torch-lit walk went from the town centre to their house

Memorial services were held for the three children in Stavtrup, a suburb of Aarhus where the family lives, last Thursday, ahead of the funeral today, as a torch-lit walk went from the town centre to their house

Walkers gathered outside the Povlsen house before Anders and Anne emerged and stood with them for a few minutes

Walkers gathered outside the Povlsen house before Anders and Anne emerged and stood with them for a few minutes

As well as the memorial in Stavtrup (pictured), commemorations were also held in Brande last Thursday, where Mr Povlsen's fashion empire is based, the capital Copenhagen and third-largest city Odense

As well as the memorial in Stavtrup (pictured), commemorations were also held in Brande last Thursday, where Mr Povlsen’s fashion empire is based, the capital Copenhagen and third-largest city Odense

Sirisena also said in an interview he believed Islamic State was behind the April 21 attacks, which targeted churches and luxury hotels and killed more than 250 people including 42 foreign nationals. The group has claimed responsibility.

‘Elections cannot be postponed, therefore before the elections I will bring about stability and I will eradicate terrorism,’ Sirisena said. 

‘We have already identified all active members of the group and it’s a case of now arresting them,’ Sirisena said, adding that there were a further 25 to 30 ‘active members’ linked to the bombings still at large.

Sirisena said that all indications suggested Islamic State had been involved, adding: ‘It’s crystal clear because after the attacks the IS organisation made an announcement claiming responsibility for the bombings.’

Sri Lanka authorities have previously said that they suspect the attackers had international links, although the precise nature of those connections is not known.

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Police have said two previously little-known groups – National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – carried out the bombings.

Sirisena said that intelligence services from eight countries, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol, were helping Sri Lanka with the investigation.

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday the security forces would 'eradicate terrorism' the devastating suicide attacks and restore stability before a presidential election due by year-end

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday the security forces would ‘eradicate terrorism’ the devastating suicide attacks and restore stability before a presidential election due by year-end

Sirisena said more needs to be done: 'There are another 25-30 suspects still at large, but there is no information yet to say these suspects are suicide bombers'

Sirisena said more needs to be done: ‘There are another 25-30 suspects still at large, but there is no information yet to say these suspects are suicide bombers’

Local intelligence officials believe that Zahran Hashim, a radical Tamil-speaking preacher from the east of the Indian Ocean island nation, may have been a key player in plotting the bombings. Officials believe he was one of nine suicide bombers. 

Sirisena said that the military and police have made huge progress with their investigations, but emphasised that more needs to be done.

‘There are another 25-30 suspects still at large, but there is no information yet to say these suspects are suicide bombers.’

Scores of suspected Islamists have been arrested after the Easter attacks shattered the relative peace enjoyed by the multi-ethnic nation since a civil war ended a decade ago.

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard outside St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo last Monday - the country remains on high alert

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo last Monday – the country remains on high alert

Sri Lanka’s security forces were on high alert amid intelligence reports that militants were likely to strike before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, due to begin on Monday.

The government has banned women from wearing face veils under an emergency law that was put in place after the attacks.

‘This is not a Sri Lanka issue, it’s a global terrorist movement,’ Sirisena said. ‘Even advanced countries like the U.S., Russia, UK, Germany, India and Australia together haven’t been able to completely eradicate this IS global terrorism menace.’

Sri Lanka’s leaders, including the president, have come under heavy criticism for failing to heed warnings from Indian intelligence services – at least three in April alone – that an attack was imminent.

Sirisena denied he had knowledge of the warnings before he embarked on an overseas trip on April 15.

‘Had I known about this, I would have taken appropriate action, and not gone overseas,’ he said.

Critics said infighting between the president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had undermined the response to the militant threat. But Sirisena said he and the prime minister were cooperating on national security issues.

Sri Lanka’s economy, already struggling with growth slipping to a 17-year low in 2018, has been dealt a ‘big blow’ by the attacks, Sirisena said.

The tourism sector has grown rapidly in the last decade since the Sri Lankan government defeated the rebel Tamil Tigers. Around 2.5 million tourists visit the island nation each year.

‘It’s a big blow to the economy, as well as the tourism industry,’ Sirisena said. ‘For the economy to develop it’s important tourism to return to where it was before the attacks.’