Saltire flags have flown at half-mast on the Highland estates owned by billionaire landowners Anders and Anne Holch Povlsen to mark the tragic killing of three of their four children in the Sri Lanka terror attacks.
It emerged that the 46-year-old retail tycoon, Denmark’s wealthiest man and Scotland’s biggest landowner, and his wife, 40, had suffered the horrific loss in Easter Sunday suicide bombings.
No group has yet claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan officials have named little-known Islamic extremist organisation National Thowfeek Jamaath as the perpetrators.
At least 290 people were killed in the explosions and more than 500 were wounded. Twenty-four people have since been arrested in a series of raids.
In Colombo, St Anthony’s Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted in the first wave of explosions shortly before 9am local time, as worshippers attended morning services and tourists enjoyed their breakfasts.
At around the same time, explosions were also reported at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
A few hours later, two more blasts occurred just outside Colombo. Three police officers were killed during a search at a suspected safe house when its occupants apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest.
Jesper Stubkier, communications manager for Mr Holch Povlsen’s wholesale fashion business Bestseller – he is also the main shareholder in fashion retailer Asos – said: “I can confirm that three children have been killed. We ask that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.”
It is unknown which of the Povlsen’s children died in the atrocity, or in which of the blasts they lost their lives.
The couple’s four children are Alma, Astrid, Agnes and Alfred. It’s understood the family had been enjoying a break together in Sri Lanka. A few days before the attacks, Alma shared an Instagram photo describing “three little bears” – thought to show three of the children – in front of a swimming pool lined by palm trees.
Tributes have been paid across the north of Scotland, with Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban – whose constituency covers the Povlsen’s Glenfeshie Estate in the Cairngorms – saying: “It is a horror story for this hugely popular family.
“Mr Povlsen is a different type of landowner who works extremely hard for the areas he owns properties in.
“It was horrible to hear this news, not only for the Povlsen family but for the hundreds of others affected by this atrocity.
“Only last week he said on his website that he would not see out his dream to rewild his Highland estate and would be passing this on to his children, which makes this even more distressing.”
“All our sympathies go to him, his wife and the rest of the family.”
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “This is truly heart-rending news. Mr Povlsen is a well-known figure in the Highlands and I’m sure I speak for everybody when I say that we grieve his immeasurable loss.
“The brutality of these attacks in Sri Lanka may seem far removed from the peace and quiet of the Highlands but the ripples of the impact are global in nature.”
Highlands and Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart said “To lose one child is horrendous, but to lose three you just cannot imagine the despair, devastation and grief this would bring to bear.”
And Sutherland councillor Linda Munro broke down in tears as she described her “shock” at learning of the deaths.
She added: “I find it just unbelievable. I am in tears. The family have played an important role in rejuvenating rural communities and all those who know them will be sending their thoughts and prayers to them.”
The businessman owns the international clothing chain Bestseller and is the biggest single shareholder in fashion retailer Asos.
He and his wife have acquired around a dozen Highland estates over the years – spending an estimated £100 million on property covering 220,000 acres – including his first, Glenfeshie, as well as Strathmore in Sutherland, Braeroy in Lochaber, Eriboll and Polla, Braegill and Hope, Gaick and Ben Loyal, Aldourie Castle, and Kinrara Estate.
Yesterday, at the Glenfeshie Estate and Aldourie Castle, flags flew at half-mast.