Grieving father leads procession at funeral for wife and children

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Hundreds of mourners have joined a father to pay their respects to his wife and five children who died in a house fire.

Sabah Usmani, a doctor, and her children – Hira, 12, Sohaib, 11, Muneeb, nine, Rayyan, six, and Maheen, three – died in the blaze in Barn Mead, Harlow, Essex, last week.

Father and husband Dr Abdul Shakoor, who tried to rescue his family, was the only survivor.

Yesterday about 400 people filled the Harlow Islamic Centre for a traditional Muslim funeral.

Paramedics, firefighters and police officers who dealt with the blaze attended. Teachers and pupils who studied alongside the children also joined members of the Islamic community.

Imam Muhammed Saleem led prayers for the family.

The imam reassured mourners that, under Islamic tradition, those killed by fire die as martyrs.

He added: “We all belong to Allah. Whoever comes into this world has to also pass from this world.”

A foot procession to the nearby Parndon Wood Cemetery followed prayers at the centre.

Six hearses led the way, from that carrying the smallest coffin, belonging to Maheen, who was due to celebrate her fourth birthday on Tuesday, to Dr Usmani at the rear.

Dr Shakoor followed behind, with community elders holding his hand in a show of solidarity.

Members of the public stood along the roadside to pay their tributes.

Each coffin, topped with flowers, carried the words: “Victim of the Harlow house fire.”

Parvez Hamed, a close friend of the family, said: “I spent yesterday with Dr Shakoor.

“What he is going through it unimaginable and we all share his pain. We hope today can begin to bring some closure.”

Essex Police initially treated the blaze as a suspected arson attack but no trace of an accelerant used to spark the flames has been found.

Although officers continue to investigate all possibilities it is now thought “increasingly likely” the fire was a tragic accident.