Fifth child dies after Essex house fire as three-year-old girl loses fight for life in hospital

 

A three-year-old girl who was fighting for life after a house fire that claimed the lives of her mother and four siblings has died.

Maheen Shakoor had been in a critical condition in the burns units at the Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford since being transferred there after the blaze in Harlow, Essex.

Her mother, doctor Sabah Usmani, brothers Sohaib, 11, Muneeb, 9, and Rayyan, six, and 12-year-old sister Hira died in their end-of-terrace house in Barn Mead in the early hours of Monday.

Father Abdul Shakoor, also a doctor, suffered minor injuries as he fought to rescue his family from the blaze.

A spokesman for the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where Dr Shakoor worked and where Maheen was initially taken, said: "None of us can come close to understanding his suffering and the terrible loss of Maheen, Rayyan, Muneeb, Sohaib, Hira and his wife Sabah."

The statement continued: "On behalf of all our staff at Princess Alexandra Hospital, we extend our deepest sympathy to Dr Shakoor.

"All of us have been saddened by this tragedy and as a close-knit hospital community, many of us know Dr Shakoor and have been overwhelmed by what has happened.

"Our book of condolence, which is available for staff to sign in our hospital, is being filled with the most heartfelt and genuine messages which are truly humbling.

"Our thoughts and our prayers are with our dear friend and colleague."

Police initially treated the blaze as a suspected arson attack.

Earlier today results of tests carried out at the scene were released showing that the fire started in the lounge at the rear of the property.

No trace of an accelerant used to spark the flames has so far been found.

Although officers are continuing to investigate all possibilities it is now thought "increasingly likely" the fire was a tragic accident.

Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson said: "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."

A mound of floral tributes has been left near the family home.

Friends and neighbours have paid tribute to a "wonderful, hard-working" family.

Lesley Lynn, headteacher at the nearby Abbotsweld School, said Sohaib, Muneeb and Rayyan were all pupils, describing them as "intelligent and sociable children with a good sense of humour, good at sports and much loved by everyone".

She added: "Everyone at the school is distraught to learn of the horrible tragedy that has hit the Shakoor family."

PA

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