POLICE say that a fire which killed a mother and her four daughters in Accrington this morning (Wednesday) was started deliberately.
Firefighters were called to a blaze at the end terrace property in Tremellen Street at about 2am. After breaking in they found the bodies of the woman - 39-year-old youth and community worker Caneze Riaz - and four children Sayrah (15), Sophia (12), Alicia (10) and Hannah (3).
The girls' father, Mohammed, escaped from the house but was seriously hurt and has been taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester where there is a specialist burns unit. His condition is described as "critical, but stable".
At a press conference, Det Supt Mick Gradwell of Lancashire Police said that the doors of the house had been locked from the inside, and accelerants used in several places to start the blaze. A murder investigation is now under way.
John Taylor, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, told the Observer: : "This is a tragic loss of life. We got a call in the early hours. Crews from Hyndburn Fire Station and subsequently Great Harwood and Blackburn attended. Very quickly the tragedy unfolded.
"Crews wearing breathing apparatus rescued a man, and then tragically found there were four children who had perished and also a woman.
"The rescue was completed and the fire extinguished very quickly, within minutes of their arrival."
Full story and reaction in this week's Observer