Leicester house fire deaths: Thousands attend service

media captionAbout 7,000 people attended a prayer service in Leicester's Spinney Hill Park

Thousands of mourners have attended a prayer service for a mother and her three children who perished in a house fire in Leicester.

Shehnila Taufiq, 47, her daughter Zainab, 19, and two sons, Bilal, 17, and 15-year-old Jamal, died after their home was set alight on 13 September.

Husband and father of the victims, Dr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar, told the gathering in Spinney Hill Park: "It's a sad day, my heart is crying."

Eight men are charged with murder.

The eighth suspect, a 22-year-old man, is due to appear before Leicester Magistrates' Court on Friday, after being charged by police earlier.

At the service Dr Taufiq, a Dublin-based neurosurgeon, thanked everyone for their support.

He said: "I know our hearts are breaking but all the brothers and sisters are with me, everybody from Leicester from all denominations, outside Leicester and throughout the world.

image captionDr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar said his faith had given him strength

Following the service, as private ambulances carried the coffins of his loved ones away, he told reporters: "I cried a few times today carrying the coffins of my family, [but] I am going to continue the work my wife and my children have left for me."

He added his faith had given him the strength to carry on.

Local dignitaries, including police and crime commissioner Sir Clive Loader and the Venerable Dr Tim Stratford, archdeacon of Leicester, attended the service.

Dr Stratford said: "There is always a danger that violence and hate divide but today we see the people of Leicester reaching out together."

Ch Supt Rob Nixon, of Leicestershire Police, described the deaths as a "tragic incident" which had "a very significant impact on the local community".

"To see so many people coming together with a common purpose to pay their respects is actually quite overwhelming," he added.

The bodies will now travel by ferry to Dublin for burial on Saturday.

More on this story