Harlow fire: fresh appeal for witnesses

ESSEX Police have made a fresh appeal for witnesses and information following a ‘suspicious’ house fire which left five members of the same family dead.

Work has begun today (Thursday) to board up and secure the Shakoor family home in Barn Mead, Harlow, where Dr Sabah Usmani and her sons Sohaib, 11, and Rayan, six, and 12-year-old daughter Hira, died following a blaze in the early hours of Monday morning.

Her husband, Abdul Shakoor, also a doctor, suffered minor injuries as he fought to rescue his family from the blaze.

The couple’s three-year-old daughter Maheen Shakoor, the only other survivor of the fire, is said to be “critical but stable” in the specialist burns unit at Broomfield hospital in Chelmsford.

Investigators said they had been unable to find traces of any accelerant at the scene of the fatal fire.

Senior Investigating Officer, Det Supt Rob Vinson, said: “We have many lines of active inquiry but really need residents and bystanders who were in the Barn Mead area as emergency crews responded and dealt with the fire to come forward urgently.

“Although we have spoken with many people there are still those who have not made contact with us. Very probably they feel they have no information and do not want to waste police time, but in reality if you were at or near the scene of this incident we need you to come forward urgently.

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“It is a clich� but you may have seen something that in isolation does not seem important but in reality may give us a vital piece of information.”

The forensic work at the address is nearing completion and will now move forward away from the scene.

Experts have found that, to date, there is no evidence to suggest that an accelerant was used to trigger the blaze but incident investigators will not be able to draw any final conclusions until the work of the forensic scientists is complete.

Det Supt Vinson explained: “We know already from the fire service and our own findings that temperatures would have been extremely high, with thick toxic smoke permeating the house.

“Initial indications show that the fire appears to have taken hold in the lounge area which is at the rear of the property. The ferocity of the blaze has made the forensic work more challenging.”

He added: “Naturally local residents are concerned about what happened and this investigation will not end until we have exhausted every line of inquiry

As inquiries continue the mobile police station will remain in Barn Mead for the foreseeable future as the impact of the tragic fire is still felt across the local community.

Anyone with information in connection with the fire is urged to contact detectives at Harlow’s Major Investigation Team on 101, email them on SCDappeals@essex.pnn.police.ukor call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.