THE closest surviving members of the tragic Riaz family have spoken of their agony and trauma on the first anniversary of the blaze that shocked the nation.
Barry and June Khanan paid tribute to their family as they spoke exclusively to the Observer about the heartbreak that has plunged them both into the depths of depression.
They said they still cannot look to the future and are struggling to accept that six members of their family have been so cruelly snatched away from them.
Caneze Riaz and her four daughters Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 13, Alicia, 10, and Hannah, three, were murdered by husband and father Mohammed Riaz, unable to accept their westernised ways.
He poured petrol around their home in Tremellen Street, Accrington, and lit it with matches while his family slept.
The tragedy was made even worse when, just six weeks after Caneze and her daughters were buried, her son Adam, 17, lost his battle with an aggressive form of cancer.
Caneze’s mum June, 59, who had chosen to stay out of the media spotlight until this week, said: “I can’t get on with my life because I can’t accept what has happened. I can’t move forward because each day that goes by gets harder. People say time will heal but for me it never will.
“I have lost everything I loved and lived for. It’s just myself and my son Barry left. Where do you go from there?
“I could cry at any moment of the day but I am worried that if I start I may never stop.”
Close family and friends of Caneze and the girls did readings of the Koran and said prayers on the anniversary of the blaze.
Barry, 39, who has since moved to his home town of Bolton with June, said that the national media interest also caused the family a lot of distress.
He added: “I had to go back to counselling because I can feel myself sinking lower into a deeper depression. Up to now I have been trying to hold myself together to organise financial matters and the sale of the house.
“Now everything has calmed down I can feel myself going down. I’m not sleeping or eating properly. I tend to hold my emotions back a lot and I think it has done me more harm than good.”
Barry said he knows that they must try to move on but during the last 12 months they have struggled to cope with all of the birthdays and anniversaries they should have been celebrating with their family.
He added: “We just have to try and start a new life. I feel like I have a blank canvas and it’s time to paint a new picture. I suppose it’s easier said than done though.”
Barry and cousin Vicky Entwistle featured in a BBC3 documentary last week to tell the world the story behind the man who murdered their family.
The people of Hyndburn have offered support and comfort to Barry and June, and complete strangers often stop at the Riaz gravestones at Accrington Cemetery to spend a minute of reflection.
Barry said: “I will always love and miss my family but I am thank-
ful for all the years that I was able to spend with them.
“I hope people will always remember Caneze and her children for the loving and caring people they were. We hope to do them justice and we can only try to be a fraction of what they once were.
“It’s now time to deal with the reality of it all. It’s hard to put our feelings to one side, but although we will never forget them, we have to try and move on with our lives.”
The girls’ nine-year-old cousin Kallum Entwistle said: “Thank you for being our cousins and thank you for being our friends. Craig, Kallum and Auntie Vicky will miss you forever.”
June added: “Please God, take care of my family.”
A special memorial display was laid out yesterday at Moorhead Sports College, where Adam, Sayrah and Sophia were once pupils. A minute’s silence was also held to remember the family.