Arson is a terrible sneaky, cowardly crime that must rank as loathsome even when we look at how low any murder is. To kill by setting a fire when anyone is asleep inside is horrendous, words fail when those that are killed are children. This is the case of the murder of a mother and little kids.
15th October 2012 in Barns Mead, Harlow, Essex, UK. The family were asleep when a fire was started during a burglary. Only the father survived. Dr Abdul Shakoor jumped from an upstairs window of the terraced house and raised the alarm but he was unable to save any of his family.
His wife, Dr Sabah Usmani, 44, and his five children had no chance.
The blaze is believed to have started in the lounge downstairs. A Toshiba laptop was stolen and was later found.
There is very little written that is available to me on this. There was a delay in declaring this a murder while fire investigators did their thing. The laptop, a Toshiba Satellite, was found near some garages and had a two pin shaver lead plugged into the power unit. This was eleven days later.
The laptop had been bought by the family in Saudi Arabia so had no easy access to the UK electrical system. The lead was not from the home so someone had tried rig up a DIY solution.
Four youths were sought originally. Apart from one being taller and two of them were on bicycles nothing much was said of them. They had been seen hanging around the area at the crucial time. A later appeal only mentioned a white man in his 20s who could be a crucial witness.
A strange aspect to this was that a neighbour’s car was set on fire at the same time.
Later in 2012 the local police station was called anonymously by someone saying they had information. In November a note saying similar was left on a shelf in a local pharmacy. Despite calls for these people to get in touch with law enforcement nothing new has come of these incidents.
Here is a much later appeal in the form of an interview with Dr Shakoor.
There are occasional murders just like this and I find them very hard to fathom. I understand animosity to the point of murder. I don’t understand killing for sex or money, but I can see the motive of gain however ridiculous and cruel such murders are. I don’t understand how anyone can kill by fire especially when children are the victims.
Here we could have a possible racist attack. A burglary to start with that then becomes a a hideously vicious murder. The thing that sticks out to me is the simultaneous burning of a neighbour’s car. Given how close it was to the house it appears to be a clear message. A wiping out of the family specific to them
Of course it could be the car was burnt as part of a night of terror sort of attack on a community. If the offender set that car on fire because they believed it belonged to the family though this was a specific attack.
In support of the idea that this was low life burglars is the amateur way someone tried to feed power to the laptop. Anyone with a bit of sense, and worldly knowledge, could have sorted that power issue easily enough. That does indicate young, terminally stupid house burglars.
Then, I’m sorry to swing around on this one, why abandon the laptop in clear view by garages? Was the offender just dumping it or were they leaving it out for someone else to access?
These are just random thoughts.
The cops said they believed the community in Harlow held the key to this crime. That indicates they did not see some wide ranging motive.
In this case the fire that was started was in the lounge. It was about 1.40 am. There could have been no doubt in the mind of the person that life would be lost.
Often these ‘arson’ attacks come in the form of petrol through letter boxes or poured under doors after material has been stuffed through to get the fire going. In my opinion it is worth not having a letter box but rather have a mail box outside and keep the gap on the door insulated tight.
Of course it would have made no difference here, but a burglar alarm that you can zone off to protect the ground floor would have. All hindsight on my part I know. Just a thought born from picturing those little kids, their mother and a devastated father.
Another arson attack claimed the life of Andrea Daly in 2005
A whodunnit mystery surrounded the murder and arson attack on Dr Danuta Kaczmarsjka in 1986
Another callous arson attack claimed the life of seven year old Joel Urhie 2018
Also to be considered was the arson murder of two adults and a child in Northampton in 1987