Ten years on since the fatal fire in Harlow, which killed six members of the same family, Essex Police are continuing to appeal for the public’s help.
Shortly before 2am of Monday, 15 October 2012, we were called to a large fire at a home in Barn Mead, Harlow. Dr Abdul Shakoor lost his wife, Dr Sabah Usmani and their children- daughters Hira, 12 and Maheen, 3 and their sons Sohaib, 11 Muneeb, 9 and Rayyan, 6.
It was quickly established that the fire had been started deliberately. In addition to the fire at the address, a Ford Focus car, which was not connected to Dr Shakoor’s family was located on fire nearby.
A murder investigation was launched by Essex Police, turning into one of our largest enquiries under the name Operation Shakespeare. Seven people were arrested following initial enquiries but later released without further action.
Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe from Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said:
“This was one of the most tragic events in Essex Police’s history, where a man lost his entire family.
"The pain Dr Shakoor has experienced is unimaginable and has been intensified due to the fact he has never had answers, and no one has ever been held responsible for this tragedy.
“This has been an extensive investigation so far, with hundreds of hours of CCTV being reviewed and over 500 witness statements taken.
“No investigation is ever closed, but with cold cases, they are reviewed at the one year, a five year and a ten-year mark.
"The point we’re at now is a ten-year review, where as the newly assigned senior investigating officer, I will be reviewing what has been done so far and identifying any opportunities of progression.
“Our goal is still the same now as it was ten years ago and that is to get justice for Dr Shakoor and his family.
“I know that there are people out there who know what happened that night and these people could be the key to getting justice for a family including children, whose lives were cruelly taken away so early.
“Having policed Harlow for many years, I know that this is a community who want justice for this family.
“Any information, no matter how small could help us and if you know something that you weren’t in the position to disclose back then, please contact us.”
Lines of enquiry
Detectives are continuing to follow particular lines of enquiry. These include identifying a white man, in his late teens/early 20s on a bicycle in the area when the house and car were set alight.
In November 2012, a person rang Harlow Police Station from a phone box and left a message, providing information about the fire.
Later that month, a piece of paper about the investigation was left on a shelf at the Boots in Harlow.
If you were the individual who left these messages or if you know who it was, please contact us.
One hypothesis of this tragedy is that it was initially a burglary.
This was due to the fact that a black Toshiba Satellite laptop was stolen from the house and has never been located.
The unique laptop was fitted with a two-pin lead, having been bought in Saudi Arabia.
The laptop bag and lead were later recovered close to the scene, between Whitewaits and St Michaels Close with the lead being attached to a shaver plug, not belonging to the family.
DCI Metcalfe added:
“Whilst I appreciate the amount of time that has passed, any information about these lines of enquiry, or anything else about this tragedy would benefit our investigation.
“You do not have to report directly to us, you can always call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or contact them via their website. We have also set up a link on our Major Incident Public Portal, so that the public can submit written information.”
If you have any information, please get in contact with us. You can contact us through our Digital 101 service, or you can call 101.
You can also submit information through our dedicated online portal.
Alternatively if you'd like to make an anonymous report, contact independent charity Crimestoppers by visiting their website or by calling 0800 555 111.