1. ITV Report

Funeral for house fire family

Funeral cortege of Sabah Usmani, a doctor, who along with her children - Hira, 12, Sohaib, 11, Muneeb, nine, Rayyan, six, and Maheen, 3. Photo: PA

The funeral of a mother and five children who died in a house fire has been held.

Hundreds of mourners joined the family's 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.

Today he followed the cortege of six hearses.

Also paying their respects were school friends and teachers, and members of the emergency services who fought to rescue the family.

Hannah Pettifer has this report:

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 yesterday, 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."

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.

– A close friend of the family, Parvez Hamed

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.

A book of condolence set up for the Harlow community to pay its respects to the family has passed 130 messages and will close on Friday.

Harlow Council has made arrangements for the book to be passed on to Dr Shakoor.

We have received an overwhelming response to our book of condolence with people leaving such heartfelt messages to those who lost their lives so tragically.

In the last week the Harlow community has rallied round to support Dr Shakoor and pay its respects to the family in so many different ways.

– Mark Wilkinson, Harlow Council's leader

More on this story on the ITV News Anglia website and the ITV News National website.

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