The brother of a singer from 1970s disco group Boney M is helping police with their inquiries into the murder last Tuesday of Syrian-born imam Abdul Hadi Arwani. The suspect, Burnell “Bernie” Mitchell, 61, was raised in a devoutly Christian family with the voice behind Brown Girl in the Ring and the Rivers of Babylon.
According to The Times, the investigation into the shooting of Arwani took a surprise turn when it was revealed Mitchell – a builder and director of the An Noor mosque in west London, where Arwani used to preach – was last night being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Mitchell is the younger brother of Liz Mitchell, a member of one of the most successful singing groups of the 1970s, remembered for hits that also included Rasputin and Daddy Cool. The four singers provided the staple dance music for discos around the world in an era of flared jeans and interesting hairstyles.
Boney M was formed in Germany and remain the only artists to appear twice in the top 10 best selling singles of all time in the UK, with “Rivers of Babylon” in 7th place and “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord” at number 10. They are also one of six artists to sell a million copies with two singles in the same year.
The Times story says Mitchell and his sister were part of a family that emigrated to London from their native Jamaica when they were children. They were brought up in a “churchgoing” family in northwest London but the suspect is thought to have converted to Islam several years ago and is now known as Khaled. His wife is a former model who now wears a hijab.
Police are continuing to question Mitchell and he remains a key suspect in the investigation into the murder of Arwani, a father of six and outspoken critic of the Assad regime in his native Syria. He was found dead in the Greenhill area of Wembley, northwest London.
A second man, the Jamaican businessman Leslie Cooper, 36, is due to appear at the Old Bailey today after being charged with the murder of Arwani.