Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Blaze deaths were murder say police

Floral tributes outside the home of Sabah Usmani in Barn Mead, Harlow, Essex

Detectives investigating a house fire which killed six members of the same family are treating the deaths as murder, police said.

Sabah Usmani, 44, her sons Muneeb, nine, and Rayyan, six, and daughter Hira, 12, died in the blaze in the early hours of October 15 at their home in Barn Mead, Harlow, Essex. A third son, Sohaib, 11, and daughter Maheen, three, died later in hospital.

Dr Usmani's husband, Abdul Shakoor, was the only survivor.

Essex Police said: "Evidence from fire scientists has indicated that the likely cause of the fire was malicious ignition. Detectives know that there was a burglary at the house on the same evening/early morning of the fire and are re-appealing for information and witnesses."

A police spokesman said that from the start of the investigation, named Operation Shakespeare, detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate had treated the incident as a suspicious fire. He added: "A dedicated team of detectives and specialist police officers and staff have undertaken intensive inquiries - looking at all aspects of this case. They are working round the clock to establish how the fire started and who was responsible."

Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson said: "This is now a murder investigation. We believe that someone burgled the house and then caused a fire that took the lives of six innocent people. Someone knows something about this incident and for whatever reason has not come forward to tell police what they saw or know. Please search your conscience for the sake of those five young children and their mother. This is an unprecedented case in the history of Essex Police and we will do everything we can to solve this tragedy."

Dr Shakoor discovered the fire at his home and battled hard to save his family, suffering the effects of the dense smoke and also minor burns as he tried to get them out. At the same time as fire crews were tackling the blaze, a Ford Focus car was alight in a parking area nearby. Mr Vinson said: "I need the public's help and appeal for information about people who were in the area and about items taken in the burglary."

Dr Shakoor's laptop bag which contained a two-pin lead was originally found in a hedge along the footpath between St Michael's Close and Whitewaits, Harlow, by two teenagers, then abandoned in Whitewaits by some garages. "Do you know how the laptop bag came to be abandoned in the hedge?" Mr Vinson asked

The family laptop, a Toshiba Satellite, is missing. "Have you been offered a laptop such as this since October 15?"

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Operation Shakespeare investigation team on 01277 266869 or 0800 056 0944 or on scdappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111

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