Harlow House Fire Remains Unsolved – Pleas for closure in 2012 arson massacre which destroyed a family.


Harlow, Essex 15th October 2012.

Dr Abdul Shakoor was a Pakistani immigrant living in the small English town of Harlow when on the 15th October 2012 he lost his wife and five children in a house fire ruled by Essex Police as an arson attack.

To date the crime remains unsolved.

The blaze ripped through the house in the early hours of the morning while the Shakoor family slept and robbed a hard-working and successful man of his entire family.  

The victims were Dr. Shakoor’s wife and five children:

  • ·         Muneeb (aged nine)
  • ·         Rayyan (aged six)
  • ·         Hira (aged twelve)
  • ·         Sohain (aged eleven)
  • ·         Maheen (aged three)
  • ·         And the doctor’s wife Sabah Usmani

Dr Shakoor managed to survive but had fought hard trying to save his family and escaped the fire with burn-related injuries that were treated in the nearby Chelmsford Hospital (a neighbouring city).  

The family had originally moved to the UK in 2009 and to Harlow the year before the fire in 2011.

The fire started in the lounge of the three bedroom end terraced house. The evidence suggests a malicious ignition according to Essex police and detectives had tied the fire to a burglary at the house on the same day of the fire (Dr. Shakoor’s laptop was stolen).

The fire took place at around 1.30am and as well as damaging the entire house; a Silver Ford Focus parked nearby was also set alight around the same time.  

The event made national news that same day and Essex Police have not stopped searching for answers.

It has always been speculated by the Police that the cause of the fire was a robbery which had either gone array or escalated into arson. However that would be letting any possible perpetrators off easy and let’s make it clear now that this is a murder which has caused the death of six innocent victims, five of which were children. Whether intended or not, the cold-blooded murder exists, having taken place inside the comfort of someone’s own home.

Now, I do not wish to draw any speculations on Dr. Shakoor who has suffered greater than any living soul can imagine and I strongly believe to do so would be unfair and disrespectful.

Dr Shakoor was lucky to escape the fire after managing to jump from the upstairs window and was believed to have had to be restrained from re-entering the house as his family burned inside. Dr. Shakoor was treated for burns at the burn ward of Broomfield Hospital.

Dr. Shakoor and his family were new residents to the street of Barn Mead and there has been rampant speculation around the previous owner. The talk of the town since the fire was that it was an intended assassination attempt on the former tenant. The former tenant was allegedly a “dodgy bloke” (and again this is purely gossip and hearsay) involved in drug debts with many local dealers. There has been rampant talk that he was the intended target on the night in question.

"Gangster Tenant"

As the Daily Mail reports a neighbour (Chris Day) was quoted as saying about the FORMER TENANT (in true tabloid fashion):

'This guy looked like a proper dodgy bloke and he had a bull mastiff that he used to walk around the neighbourhood.

'He looked like a gangster type - the kind of person you wouldn’t want to cross. I think he was a cage fighter - he certainly was that build.

'I’ve been told he dealt drugs which would make sense as I used to see dodgy people go in and out of the house all the time when this guy lived there about a year or two ago.

'When I saw the fire I thought this must have been a revenge attack that went wrong.

'Maybe this guy owed someone money and they came to the house not knowing he’d moved.'

Conclusions could be drawn from the laptop theft and nearby burning of the Ford Focus. However; this line of investigation from Essex Police has not brought much fruit thus far.  

To date there have been more than 70 Police Officers and Staff working on the investigation with nearly 500 witness statements and 1800 exhibits collected and stored and yet no conclusive charging of any suspects. The fire remains fresh in many of the residents of Barn Mead, Harlow and the fear that a similar attack could come to them in the dead of night looms heavy on the town.

Major Lines of Enquiry:

  •          A white male aged in their late teens/early 20s was seen on a bicycle in the area when the house and car was set ablaze. They could be a key witness.
  •          The family laptop, a black Toshiba Satellite was taken from the house during the burglary. This to date has not been located but the current owner could lead to whoever had taken the laptop.
  •          The laptop was fitted with a two pin lead because it was purchased in Saudi Arabia.
  •          The bag and lead to the laptop were later recovered near the scene in a neighbouring area.
  •          Questions arise as to why the Silver Ford Focus was set alight around the same time of the house fire.
  •          Somebody called the local Harlow police station from a phone box and left a message about the fire. The person was anonymous.
  •          A piece of paper about the murder investigation was later found in a local drugstore (Boots) in Harlow. The owner of the paper was never found.
  •          There were four youths seen within the area at the time of the murders. They were all wearing tracksuits and baseball caps and aged in their teens.

The police have ruled out and maintained the ruling out of a racially motivated attack and although the victims were of Pakistani origin there is nothing to speculate on this being the reason behind the fire.

Daily Mail 

The police have also stated that there is nothing to suggest a serial arsonist, as the area and small town of Harlow did not have any prior or follow up house fires similar to this one to suggest a string of similar attacks.

So, we can determine that this was a singularly isolated incident.

What I can say about this incident is that we are nearly 10 years on and we do not have much information to go on. However; Harlow is a small town with a lot of whispers. Loyalties can change and do you really want to be the person that is keeping quiet for somebody that is willing to set fire to a house in the dead of night with six residents inside?

Dr. Shakoor came to this country for a chance of success, happiness and stability. He was a quiet and respectable member of the community that served others in his profession, and he now has to live a life filled with demons and grief. The least that this man deserves is closure. Because if something this horrific which can wipe out his entire family, can occur in a small, quiet, humble part of the world, within the safety of their own home and in the dead of the night – then it could happen to you.

If there is any information that can be shared (even if it is speculation) then I urge you to do so (full details are below).

"Every day I think about my wife and children, the pain has never gone away.

"It is impossible to put in to words the pain and grief I have endured at the loss of my entire family.

"I will never understand why somebody did this and I live in hope that someday someone may come forward with information."  -  Dr. Shakoor.

Doctor's pleas for information.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Operation Shakespeare investigation team on 01277 266869 or 0800 056 0944 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.



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