Girl still critical after Harlow house fire

 

A three-year-old girl remains in a critical condition after a suspected arson attack that killed her mother and four siblings.

Maheen Shakoor was said to be "critical but stable" in the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex, where she was transferred after the attack on her home in Harlow.

Her father, Dr Abdul Shakoor, was the only other survivor. He suffered from smoke inhalation and shock.

A spokesman for Princess Alexandra Hospital, where Dr Shakoor worked, said he had also been transferred to Broomfield Hospital.

He added: "Dr Shakoor wanted to be closer to his only surviving daughter who is still in a critical condition.

"Dr Shakoor thanked staff for the kindness and support that they have showed him."

Consultant Dr Purnami Da Silva, who worked with Dr Shakoor in the endocrinology department, said: "I met him yesterday and as you would expect he is inconsolable.

"It's a very difficult time for a father whose family has been taken away."

Sabah Usmani, a trained doctor, sons Sohaib, 11, and Rayan, six, and 12-year-old daughter Hira died at the scene in the early hours of yesterday.

A third son, Muneeb, nine, and Maheen were rescued by fire crews and taken to hospital in a critical condition but Muneeb later died.

Dr Shakoor was said to have "fought hard" to save his family.

Tributes to the family continued throughout the day as flowers were left near their burnt-out end-of-terrace house in Barn Mead, Harlow.

Lesley Lynn, headteacher at the nearby Abbotsweld School, said: "Everyone at the school is distraught to learn of the horrible tragedy that has hit the Shakoor family.

"Sohaib, Muneeb and Rayan were all pupils at the school and were intelligent and sociable children with a good sense of humour, good at sports and much loved by everyone.

"This is obviously a very distressing time for all our pupils and staff and we are working with specialist officers at Essex County Council who are assisting the school with the appropriate support needed to help staff and pupils come to terms with this."

A spokesman for the Harlow Islamic Centre paid tribute to the family, describing them as "much liked and respected".

He said: "We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dr Shakoor.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy in which his wife and four children died.

"This loss of life will be felt throughout Harlow and the UK.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this very difficult time. We request that everyone remember them in their prayers."

A painstaking forensic examination has begun in an attempt to piece together events.

Essex Police said they had ruled out a racist motive and have dismissed rumours the fire was caused by a serial arsonist.

A spokesman for the force said: "The cause of the fire is still under investigation and detectives cannot rule in or rule out all lines of inquiry and cannot speculate on the motive or cause."

A Ford Focus belonging to a neighbour of the Shakoor family was also damaged in a suspected arson incident at about the time of the attack on the house.

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, the Shakoor family lived in Saudi Arabia, where the children were born, for more than a decade before moving to the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP for Harlow Robert Halfon paid tribute to the family and the efforts of the emergency services.

He said: "I want to express my heartfelt condolences to their family and to the extended family and to their community, and to thank the emergency services for all that they have done."

Witnesses should contact the major investigation team at Harlow on 101.

PA

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