Harlow fire deaths: Council opens book of condolences

Sabah Usmani and her children who died in house fire in Harlow
Image caption Sabah Usmani and four of her children died in the fire in the early hours of Monday

A council in Essex is to open a book of condolence so residents can pay their respects to a family who died in a "suspicious" house fire on Monday.

Harlow Council will open the book at the Civic Centre on Thursday.

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, died in hospital.

Daughter Maheen, three, is "critical" and their father Dr Abdul Shakoor was treated for smoke inhalation.

Council leader Mark Wilkinson said: "We know how hard this tragedy has hit the local community.

"This is a time when people want to show those affected that they are thinking of them and pay their respects to those who have lost their lives."

Investigations continue

Dr Shakoor, said by police to have "fought hard" to save his family, and his daughter Maheen are in the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

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Media captionAjaib Hussian said Dr Shakoor's pain and suffering was unimaginable

Dr Shakoor's condition is improving while Maheen remains in a critical condition.

A specialist team is continuing to provide full care to them both, the hospital said in a statement.

An inquest into the deaths has been opened and adjourned in Chelmsford.

Post-mortem examinations found each member of the family died of burns and inhalation of fumes.

Deputy Coroner Eleanor McGann said: "I would like to extend my sympathies to all of the people who know those who died in this terrible fire and to Dr Shakoor and other family members."

It is thought that the bodies could be released for funerals by the end of Wednesday.

Tributes have been paid to the children at a Hampshire school where they were former pupils.

Image caption Teacher Julie Reed described the Shakoor's as "a loving, wonderful family"

A book of memories has been opened at Stanmore Primary School in Winchester.

Julie Reed, who taught Muneeb, said "he was a little ball of sunshine".

The Shakoors moved from Winchester, where Dr Shakoor had been working, to live in Harlow in 2011 having arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 2009.

School friends of the four children who died will be offered counselling to help them come to terms with the tragedy.

Essex Police said the fire was being treated as suspicious and their investigations would continue.

Flowers and cards have been laid outside the police cordon at Barn Mead.

Several lines of inquiry are being examined, including whether the family were the unintended victims of the attack.

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