Harlow: Funeral for family killed in house fire

THE funeral of a mother and five children who died in a house fire will be held today.

Sabah Usmani, a doctor, and her children - Hira, 12, Sohaib, 11, Muneeb, nine, Rayyan, six, and Maheen, three - died in the blaze in Barn Mead, Harlow, Essex, last week.

Father and husband Dr Abdul Shakoor was the only survivor.

Today Dr Shakoor will be joined by family members from Pakistan and the US for the funeral at Harlow Islamic Centre.

Zia Rehman, from the centre, said: “We would like to invite members of the general public to line the streets from the Harlow Islamic Centre to Parringdon Road cemetery where Sabah and her children will be buried in line with Islamic traditions.

“This is a tragedy which has hit people across the community and of all faiths and it is important people can feel part of the funeral.”

Essex Police initially treated the blaze as a suspected arson attack but no trace of an accelerant used to spark the flames has been found.

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Although officers continue to investigate all possibilities it is now thought “increasingly likely” the fire was a tragic accident.

A book of condolence set up for the Harlow community to pay its respects to the family has passed 130 messages and will close on Friday.

Harlow Council has made arrangements for the book to be passed on to Dr Shakoor.

Mark Wilkinson, council’s leader, said: “We have received an overwhelming response to our book of condolence with people leaving such heartfelt messages to those who lost their lives so tragically.

“In the last week the Harlow community has rallied round to support Dr Shakoor and pay its respects to the family in so many different ways.”