Harlow fire deaths: Funeral for Shakoor family held

BBC Look East reporter Kim Riley watched the cortege pass by

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The funeral of a doctor and her five children who died in a house fire in Essex has taken place.

Dr Sabah Usmani, her sons Muneeb, nine, and Rayyan, six, and daughter Hira, 12, died on 15 October in Harlow.

A third son, Sohaib, 11, and daughter Maheen, three, died later in hospital.

Dr Usmani's husband, Dr Abdul Shakoor, was the only survivor. He led the family and community funeral at Harlow Islamic Centre.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the tragedy, he told mourners: "I have lost everything."

'Irreparable loss'
Dr Abdul Shakoor Dr Shakoor told mourners: "I have lost everything"

Breaking down in tears, he said: "It is a shocking and heartbreaking tragedy to myself, immediate family members and close friends that within such a short period of time I lost everything in my life."

He quoted verses from the Koran and added: "It would not be possible for me to stand at this time and face this reality without guidance from the holy Koran and from the personal life of the prophet Mohammed.

"I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to this community, the hospital and my colleagues and all of those who have come forward like a family at this devastating time.

"I hope that the police and other authorities will continue with their efforts to investigate how this tragedy occurred.

"I would like to thank you all for being with us to support me and my family through this irreparable loss."

The size of the funeral cortege was a reminder of the scale of the loss suffered by the Shakoor family.

Six hearses carried the bodies of Sabah Usmani and her five children, a bouquet on each coffin.

Mourners packed into Harlow's Islamic Centre: men and boys in one part of the room, women and girls in another, separated by a screen.

Then uniformed members of the emergency services - fire, police and ambulance - filed in silently.

During the ceremony, the coffins were arranged in formation: Dr Usmani's at the front, with those of her two daughters directly behind, and behind them, those of her two sons.

Afterwards the cortege made the short journey to Parndon Wood Cemetery with mourners, including Dr Shakoor, following on foot as members of the public stood silently by the roadside to pay their respects.

The funeral procession left east London for Harlow, before arriving with a police entourage at the centre just before midday.

Ajaib Hussain, centre chairman, said: "We are all touched by the loss of loved ones.

"When six members of a family are lost so quickly then it touches everyone, especially when it involves children.

"It is a very emotional day for us."

The six coffins were taken into the centre and laid to rest in a row at the side. Three had wreaths bearing pink roses and white lillies, the other three were adorned with blue and white flowers.

About 200 mourners were inside the centre, where prayers were said.

Pay their respects

Those attending included Dr Shakoor's family from Pakistan, teachers and pupils who studied alongside the children, members of the Islamic community and representatives from the emergency services.

Maulana Saleem Nuaab, trustee of the centre, told mourners "whoever comes into this world has to pass from this world".

Sabah Usmani and her children who died in house fire in Harlow Sabah Usmani and her five children all died following the house fire

Imam Muhammed Saleem led prayers for the family.

The service was followed by a private religious burial at the Parndon Wood Cemetery.

Members of the public lined the route to pay their respects to Dr Usmani and her children.

It is believed the fire started in the lounge area, towards the rear of the end-terrace house in Barn Mead.

An investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

Police have said despite initial concerns the cause of the fire was suspicious, no accelerant had been found and it is now thought "increasingly likely" that it was a tragic accident.

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