Fatal Fire: Police believe home may have been burgled
Update 22 November (1)
Detectives investigating the fatal house fire in Harlow last
month have entered a new phase in their inquiry and are now
treating the deaths of Dr Sahah Usmani and her five children as
Detectives investigating a fatal house fire in which a man lost
his wife and five children are asking for help from people in the
area who have private CCTV cameras.
Photo: Dr Shakoor's family
Dr Abdul Shakoor’s wife Sabah Usmani and their children died after
a fire at their home in Barn Mead, Harlow in the early hours of
Monday, October 15, 2012.
Emergency services fought to save the family but Sabah, a
44-year-old qualified doctor, daughter Hira, 12, and sons Sohaib,
Muneeb, 9 and Rayyan, 6 died that day. Daughter
Maheen, 3, was taken to hospital in critical conditions but sadly
later died just days before her fourth birthday.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Essex Police is
working closely with Essex Fire and Rescue service and independent
fire scientists but to date has been unable to
identify the cause of the fire.
Detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate now
believe there may have been a burglary at the home after the family
had gone to bed and before the fire was discovered. They are
appealing for anyone who may have photos or CCTV footage from
the evening of October 14/early morning of October 15 in the
area between Barnmead and Whitewaits (see map above) to come
forward because it could provide detectives with vital
information concerning the suspicious house and car fire.
A laptop bag containing personal papers belonging to Dr Shakoor was
found abandoned near lock up garages in Whitewaits, Harlow on
Friday, October 26, 2012. Police believe the laptop may have been
stolen in the burglary.
Photo: Damage caused by the fire which is believed to have started
in the living room at the back of the house
Police appealed for a teenage boy and a girl who were seen
throwing the laptop away near to the garages to come
Detectives have now spoken to the teenages who have been able to
show them where they found the bag abandoned in bushes in a
cut through between St Michael’s Close and Whitewaits.
A scene guard is in place and the area will be further
searched. Anyone who saw the bag being abandoned is asked to
Representation of Dr Shakoor's laptop
Enquiries have also revealed that during the evening of the fatal
fire, there were two unsuccessful attempts to break into other
properties in Harlow. How these incidents relate to the fire
investigation is being considered by detectives.
Police and Dr Shakoor are now asking for members of the public with
information around two specific points of appeal to come
Representation of Dr Shakoor's laptop
Police are also appealing for information about the whereabouts of
Dr Shakoor’s Toshiba laptop.
Dr Shakoor remembers leaving the laptop in the living room before
going to bed on the evening of the fire. It was bought in Saudi
Arabia and has a two pin connection that was used with an adaptor.
Officers are asking anyone who has been offered a secondhand laptop
to come forward.
Finally, police want to speak to a group of four young men who were
outside the house in the early hours of October 15, 2012.
The lads were aged between 16 and 19 and were wearing tracksuits
and baseball caps. There were also two other youths on bikes.
The first is described as 15 to 18 with ginger or light brown hair.
He was wearing black jogging bottoms with stripes down the legs, a
hip-length anorak style jacket with a hood and was riding a light
The second was riding a black mountain bike, is described as 16 to
18 and was wearing a light grey top.
Rob Vinson said: “From the outset this house fire and that of the
nearby car fire were investigated as suspicious incidents by a
dedicated team from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime
Photo: The scene of the fire in Barn Mead,
“Scientists have been sifting through the remains of the fire and
have confirmed that to date there is no evidence of a flammable
liquid being used. It is however important to emphasise that
detailed forensic testing remains ongoing.
“Behind the scenes detectives and specially trained staff have been
working around the clock piecing together information and
intelligence which has led us to this point.
“This remains one of the most complex cases the investigative team
has ever dealt with but we remain steadfast in our approach and
confident the answers lie within the local community.
“We will continue to gain intelligence and work to find answers to
the questions of what happened that resulted in such a tragic loss
Dr Shakoor has pleaded with members of the public with information
that could help detectives to come forward. He said: "It is
impossible for me to put into words what the loss of my wife and
children means to me and the devastating affect it has had on all
of my family. I cannot express the pain of loosing my devoted wife
Sabah and my beautiful children, Hira, Sohaib, Muneeb, Rayyan and
Maheen. Maheen died in hospital just days before her fourth
"In the space of just one night I have lost everything dearest to
me. Any father, any mother, anyone who has family who they love,
will understand the pain that I and all my family are suffering.
Allah has given me courage to face this tragedy with patience, and
so many people from across the community have supported
me with their love and words and comfort at this terrible
"Today I am looking to the community once again for help in
providing answers to the many questions that remain. I do not
understand why my little children who were so happy and full of
life, who had so much to live for, are no longer here.
"I ask from my heart that anyone with information comes forward to
help, so that I may understand the tragedy that has befallen my
beautiful family. Even a small piece of information may make a
difference and, however difficult it may be, I ask anyone who knows
what happened, to do the right thing, to come forward and to talk
to the police.
"I am again thankful to all the community, the emergency services
and all institutions for their great support at this difficult
A dedicated telephone number has been set up for the investigation
and anyone with any information is asked to call 01277
266869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers
on 0800 555 111.
Police are called to Barn Mead, Harlow
at 1.48am following report of a house fire and persons
trapped. Emergency services confronted by end of terrace house
Sadly a mother and her three young children die in the
fire - Sabah Usmani, aged 44, a qualified doctor, and children,
daughter Hira aged 12 and sons Muneeb, 9, and Rayyan
Two children, Sohaib, 11, and Maheen, 3, are
taken to hospital. Sohaib sadly dies. Maheen is
taken in a critical condition to a specialist burns
As fire crews arrive at Barn Mead they also find a Ford Focus car
alight a short distance away in a car park. The car is not
connected to the family involved in the house fire. However the car
fire is treated as arson.
Police and the fire service launch an investigation into the cause
of the fatal fire which is treated as suspicious.
A press conference is held at Essex Police Headquarters
and ACC Gary Beautridge, Head of the Essex and Kent Serious
Crime Directorate, confirms the names of those who died and
were seriously injured.
Mr Shakoor is supported by specially trained family liaison
officers as police begin working with him to determine facts
surrounding the tragedy.
A Major Crime Investigation is launched and anyone who was in the
area and has any information is urged to contact detectives at
Harlow Major investigation team on 101 or via e mail at SCDappeals@essex.pnn.police.uk
October 17, 2012
An inquest hearing is opened and
Post mortem examinations are held and provisional results
indicate that the family died of smoke inhalation and fire.
October 18, 2012
Three-year-old Maheen sadly dies of her injuries.
Essex Police becomes aware of speculation that the fire may have
been caused by a serial arsonist setting fire to vehicles. Police
confirm this does not appear to be the case.
Police have a number of lines of inquiry and appeal for residents
and bystanders with information to come forward urgently.
Experts confirm there is no evidence to suggest an
accelerant was used to trigger the blaze but incident
investigators are unable to draw any final conclusions until
scientific investigations are complete.
Initial indications show that the fire appears to have taken
hold in the lounge area at the back of the property.
October 24, 2012
The funeral for six members of the Shakoor
family is held in Harlow. After funeral prayers at the Islamic
Centre, the funeral cortege makes it way to a cemetery where a
private burial is held.