House fire girl fights for life

A doctor and her four children were killed in a suspected arson attack on their home in Harlow, Essex

A doctor and her four children were killed in a suspected arson attack on their home in Harlow, Essex

First published in National News © by

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

Maheen Shakoor is being treated at the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex, following the attack on her home in Barn Mead, Harlow.

Her father, Dr Abdul Shakoor, the only other survivor, has also been transferred to the hospital to be closer to his daughter. He suffered from smoke inhalation and shock after fighting to save his family from the blaze which ripped through their end-of-terrace house.

Consultant Dr Purnami Da Silva, who worked with Dr Shakoor in the endocrinology department at Princess Alexandra Hospital has described him as "inconsolable".

Sabah Usmani, also a doctor, sons Sohaib, 11, and Rayan, six, and 12-year-old daughter Hira died at the scene in the early hours of Monday. A third son, Muneeb, nine, and Maheen were rescued by fire crews and taken to hospital in a critical condition but Muneeb later died.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but Essex Police said officers have ruled out a racist motive and have dismissed rumours the fire was caused by a serial arsonist.

Dr Joud Abduljawad, an accident and emergency consultant at the hospital and a friend and colleague of Dr Shakoor, was on call at the time of the tragedy.

"I was the consultant in emergency medicine on call and I was called in and I was quite shocked to know that I was caring and looking after members of the family of Abdul and his children," he told ITV Daybreak. "It was quite an emotional shock for me and for the whole staff of the emergency department. We had to keep our emotions well-controlled."

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

Police are carrying out a painstaking forensic examination in an attempt to piece together events. 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.

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