Fatal fire in Harlow
As work begins to board up and secure the Shakoor family home in
Barn Mead, a fresh appeal is being made for witnesses and
Photo: The scene of the fire in Barn Mead,
Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson, the Senior Investigating
Officer, 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
“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. It is a cliché 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 scientists and the
investigation is completed.
D/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.
Updated: Thursday, October 18 at 1.55pm
Essex Police is aware of a number of rumours and speculation
surrounding a possible cause of the fatal fire in Barn Mead,
Harlow, on Monday, October 15, 2012.
One theory circulating is that a serial arsonist setting fire to
vehicles may be responsible. Police can categorically say that this
does not appear to be the case.
In April two old vehicles were abandoned within two weeks of each
other and set alight in Bishops Field, which is near to Barn
There is no information to suggest any trend in Harlow for fires
being deliberately started in vehicles.
Essex Police continues to keep an open mind about how both the
house fire and the fire in the car may have started and indeed
whether there are any links between them aside from their
The investigation will include examining previous reports of
deliberate car fires.
Police are continuing to appeal for anyone with any information
about both the house fire and the fire in the car during the early
hours of Monday morning to contact them as soon as possible on 101
or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Updated: Tuesday, October 16 at 11.20am
Painstaking forensic examinations will continue today at the
scene of the fatal fire in Barnmead, Harlow which saw the tragic
loss of five members of one family in the early hours of yesterday
There will be much activity at the property, the home of Dr
Abdul Shakoor who lost his wife Sabah Usmani and four children
Hira, Sohaib, Muneeb and Rayyan in the blaze which took hold around
1.45am on Monday, October 15, 2012.
The youngest child, Maheen who survived the fire is still being
treated for her injuries at Broomfield Hospital’s specialist burns
unit in Chelmsford and her condition is described as critical but
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and
detectives can not rule in or rule out all lines of enquiry and
cannot speculate on the motive or cause.
We would appeal to anyone who has any information, however
insignificant it may appear, to contact detectives at the Major
investigation team at Harlow on 101 or via Crimestoppers on 0800
555 111 or via e mail on SCDappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 10am
At a press conference held at Essex Police Headquarters on
Monday, October 15, 2012, ACC Gary Beautridge, Head of the
Essex and Kent Serious Crime Directorate, said:
Above: ACC Gary Beautridge
“In the history of Essex Police seldom has there been an
incident of this gravity in which five people, four of them
children have lost their lives.
"May I take this opportunity to extend my sincere sympathies and
those of Essex Police to the family and friends of Dr Abdul Shakoor
who has lost his wife Sabah Usmani, aged 44 a qualified doctor, and
children, daughter Hira aged12, sons Sohaib, 11 Muneeb, 9 and
Rayyan 6. Their other daughter Maheen aged 3, nearly 4, is
critical in Broomfield Hospital’s specialist burns unit in
"I would like to stress that the father of these children was in
the property at the time and fought hard to save his family in
appalling conditions. He is being treated for severe smoke
inhalation in the intensive care unit at Princess Alexandra
Hospital, Harlow. He is being supported by specially trained
family liaison officers, and as you would expect, is in severe
shock. Our work with Mr Shakoor to establish some of the facts of
this case will, inevitably, take time because of the emotional
trauma he has suffered at the loss of his family. His condition is
described as stable.
"With the tragic nature of this incident at the forefront of our
minds, I pledge to use whatever resources are necessary to find out
exactly what has happened and, if appropriate, bring those
responsible to justice.
"To that end I can tell you that we have launched a Major Crime
Investigation to determine the facts surrounding this tragedy and
would appeal for anyone with information to make contact with
"We do believe the answers to this inquiry could lie within the
local community of Harlow, who we are encouraging to come forward
and speak with us. We fully appreciate the local community will be
devastated by what has happened - you never expect such a
catastrophic incident to occur in your neighbourhood.
"Police were called to Barn Mead, Harlow at around 1:48am on the
morning of Sunday, October 15, 2012, following the report of a
house fire and persons trapped.
"Upon arrival the emergency services were confronted by an end
of terrace residential property which was well ablaze.
"In addition a Ford Focus car was on fire. This car belongs to a
resident in Barn Mead, Harlow and was located some distance from
the house fire. To clarify this vehicle is not connected to Dr
Shakoor or any member of his family.
"On arrival Dr Shakoor was outside the premises and his family
remained within the property. Fire and Rescue commenced a rescue
operation of the five children and an adult female.
"All those recovered from the scene were given initial first aid
at the road side and then taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital in
Harlow. Our investigation teams were then mobilised and, based at
Harlow will be working round the clock to establish what has
"To support, of what can only be described, as an isolated
incident, we have deployed the Mobile Police Station to Barn Mead,
near the location of the incident which will be open around the
clock. Either sharing information or talking about a concern,
everyone is welcome to speak with officers.
"We have some initial background information about the Shakoor
family that we can now share. They moved to Harlow in 2011 having
travelled from Pakistan to the UK in 2009. Dr Shakoor works
at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow. His wife was not working
but looking after their children. They are a Muslim family and as
part of our response work we are liaising with local community
leaders to give as much support we can at this stage.
"Despite sustaining smoke inhalation injuries Dr Shakoor is
desperate to support the police investigation.
"Over the next few days our investigation will gain pace and the
results of forensic examinations will help direct our inquiries.
What is clear at this stage that this could potentially be a long
running scene investigation which will no doubt disrupt the local
community. Given the nature of our investigation we are confident
local residents will be understanding and we thank you in advance
for your support.
"Further updates will be shared with the community and the media
directly via officers on the street, our website and news
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 at 5pm
Detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are
treating the fatal fire at Barn Mead, Harlow as suspicious.
Anyone who was in this area around 1am on the morning of October
15, 2012 and has any information is urged to contact
detectives at Harlow Major investigation team on 101 or via e mail
Senior Investigating Officer Dectective Superintendent Rob
Vinson said: "This is the still the early stages of our
investigation into the tragic death of five members of one family,
a mother and four of her young children. At this time we are
investigating to see whether this fire was started deliberately and
need anyone with information to contact us.”
As fire crews arrived at Barn Mead around 1.40am they also found
a car alight a short distance away in a car park. This car
is not connected to the family involved in the house fire.
However this car fire is being treated as arson. The house will be
forensically examined by specialist scientists to find how and
where the fire started.
D/Supt Rob Vinson added: "For the sake of the family, who are
trying to come to terms with this tragic incident, I would ask for
information from the public, especially in the Harlow area, to help
us determine exactly what has happened.”