The London woman who burned alive after running into the street engulfed in a fireball near a local supermarket was Rachel Osei, an 18-year-old mother who was studying to be a physical education teacher in order to support her four-year-old son, Kai.
She was called a “promising student” by St. Mary’s University College in London’s Twickenham district where she studied, according to London 24. But how and why Osei caught on fire remains a mystery.
“The death is being treated as unexplained at this time, however early indications would suggest that it is not suspicious,” said a London Metropolitan Police spokesperson in a statement quoted by the Mirror newspaper. “The cause of the fire and circumstances of the death are being investigated by officers from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command and the London Fire Brigade.”
Police were canvassing the South London district of New Malden where the horrifying tragedy took place to see if any witnesses had further information.
London investigators spoke to two of the three individuals who attempted to put out the fire that was covering Osei’s body, according to the Guardian newspaper account of the tragedy. The third person has not yet been interviewed, but police believe they could have information to help explain the macabre death.
While investigators have also raised the possibility of suicide, Osei’s friends adamantly deny that possibility.
One friend, Rhianna Price, 18, who knew Osei from Ricard Lodge High School, told The Richmond and Twickenham Times,
“We know how much she loved her son Kai, and we don’t believe it would have been self-inflicted at all. She got pregnant with Kai in year 9 and she came back to do her GCSEs and A levels. She had the ambition.”
In addition to her young son, Osei leaves behind three siblings and both parents, all of whom are said to be “devastated” by her sudden death.
Neighbors in the southwest London area described what they called “blood curdling” screams in the early morning hours of December 29.
“I heard four separate screams, the first one right outside the house and then more screams in the road and then behind me,” said Layla Hamid. “Now that I know what it was, I feel chilled to the bone. She must have been in so much pain. I heard initially what I thought was a fox making a noise or an animal in pain. Had I known it was a person I would have gone straight to help.”