Harlow house fire
Six people including five children died after a fire broke out in the family home in Harlow. (Essex Police)

Police in Essex believe the house fire that claimed six lives in Harlow are investigating whether they were burgled on the night of the blaze.

Sabah Usmani and her five children, Hira, Sohaib, Rayyan, Muneeb and Maheen all died after the fire broke out at their home in Barn Mead.

All, but two of the children, Muneeb, nine, and Maheen, three, died at the scene. They later died in hospital from their injuries.

Police have now said a laptop bag and personal papers belonging to the father, Dr Abdul Shakoor, were found dumped near lock-up garages in Whitewaits.

They also say the laptop may have been stolen during the burglary, which is thought to have taken place after the family went to bed.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but it is believed to have broken out in the lounge at the back of the property.

Police say there were two unsuccessful burglary attempts in other Harlow properties on the night of the fire, 15 October.

A statement said: "Two people, a teenage boy aged 15 to 16 who was wearing a tracksuit, and a slim girl in a Burnt Mill School uniform, were seen throwing the laptop bag away near the garages in Whitewaits.

"Detectives need to speak to them urgently to find out where they found the bag.

"Police are also appealing for information about the whereabouts of Dr Shakoor's Toshiba laptop. Dr Shakoor remembers leaving the laptop in the living room before going to bed on the evening of the fire."

As well as this, police are seeking out six young men who were outside the property on the night of the fire. Four men aged between 16 and 19 were wearing tracksuits and baseball caps and two other boys, aged between 15 and 18, were seen on bikes outside the house.

Dr Shakoor has urged the public to come forward with information about the incident. "It is impossible for me to put into words what the loss of my wife and children means to me and the devastating affect it has had on all of my family," he said.

"I cannot express the pain of losing my devoted wife Sabah and my beautiful children, Hira, Sohaib, Muneeb, Rayyan and Maheen. Maheen died in hospital just days before her fourth birthday.

"In the space of just one night I have lost everything dearest to me. Any father, any mother, anyone who has family who they love, will understand the pain that I and all my family are suffering.

"Allah has given me courage to face this tragedy with patience, and so many people from across the community have supported me with their love and words and comfort at this terrible time.

"Today I am looking to the community once again for help in providing answers to the many questions that remain. I do not understand why my little children who were so happy and full of life, who had so much to live for, are no longer here."

Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson said: "Scientists have been sifting through the remains of the fire and have confirmed that to date there is no evidence of a flammable liquid being used. It is however important to emphasise that detailed forensic testing remains ongoing.

"Behind the scenes detectives and specially trained staff have been working around the clock piecing together information and intelligence which has led us to this point.

"This remains one of the most complex cases the investigative team has ever dealt with but we remain steadfast in our approach and confident the answers lie within the local community.

"We will continue to gain intelligence and work to find answers to the questions of what happened that resulted in such a tragic loss of life."

Dr Shakoor added: "I ask from my heart that anyone with information comes forward to help, so that I may understand the tragedy that has befallen my beautiful family.

"Even a small piece of information may make a difference and, however difficult it may be, I ask anyone who knows what happened, to do the right thing, to come forward and to talk to the police."