Harlow fire: Police now treating six deaths as murder

Sabah Usmani and her children who died in house fire in Harlow
Image caption A laptop computer was stolen from the house on the night the six family members died

Detectives investigating a house fire that killed a woman and all five of her children have said they are now treating the deaths as murder.

Sabah Usmani, 44, sons Muneeb, nine, and Rayyan, six, and daughter Hira, 12, died at their home in Barn Mead, Harlow, on 15 October.

Sohaib, 11, and daughter Maheen, three, died in hospital. Dr Usmani's husband, Abdul Shakoor, was the only survivor.

The fatal fire was featured on the BBC's Crimewatch on Wednesday night.

Dep Supt Rob Vinson told the programme: "This is an absolutely tragic case and actually unprecedented for Essex Police, just really because of the scale of the loss."

Viewers were told about a burglary at the house a few hours before the fire.

Dr Shakoor's laptop computer, a black Toshiba Satellite, is still missing and Det Supt Vinson asked for anyone who knew where it was to contact police.

The laptop bag and two-pin lead were found near lock-up garages in nearby Whitewaits 11 days later.

Youths spotted

Mr Vinson also appealed for further witnesses to get in touch.

Image caption Dr Abdul Shakoor was the only survivor of the fire which killed his wife and children

"There are still people who were in Barn Mead at the time of the fire who haven't yet come forward," he said.

Police have been told four youths were in the area at the time of the fire, which started in the lounge and spread rapidly through the end terrace house.

The detective said one of the youths was taller than the others and they were possibly wearing tracksuits and baseball caps.

Two other youths were also seen on bicycles.

"If that was you, if you know who they are, please come forward," he said.

Police also want information on the arson of a neighbour's Ford Focus car, which was found on fire when firefighters went to the Shakoors' home.

"If you know how that took place, what happened there, please let us know," said Mr Vinson.

A reward of up to £10,000 has been offered for information about the fire.

During the programme, Mr Vinson said a viewer had been in touch with the name of a possible suspect in the case.

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