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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Murder inquiry after fire deaths
Fire investigators examine the scene
Investigations are continuing at the scene of the fire
A murder investigation is underway after six people - including five young sisters - died in a house fire in Huddersfield.

West Yorkshire Police fear another body may be inside the house in Osborne Road, Birkby, because a seventh person is still unaccounted for.

Detective Superintendent Bob Bridgestock said the "horrendous" fire - which broke out at 0200 BST on Sunday - was malicious.

Neighbours reported hearing breaking glass and seeing three or four Asian men running from the scene seconds before the house burst into flames.

Detective Superintendent Bob Bridgestock
Det Supt Bridgestock: 'horrendous fire'

Mr Bridgestock said investigations were underway to find out whether petrol bombs had been used.

Eleven people were in the terraced property, which was owned by an Asian family, when the fire broke out.

Five girls - aged 13, 10, six, two and six months - perished in the fire along with at least one adult.

Four other adults managed to escape the fire and are being treated in hospital for burns and the effects of breathing in smoke.

One person in the house is still unaccounted for and police believe they also died.

'Tragic incident'

Mr Bridgestock said: "The devastation caused by the fire is horrendous and it has spread rapidly... that identification [of the bodies] may have to be done forensically.

"We know from inquiries in the area that before the fire started there was sound of breaking glass.

"Three or four Asian men aged between 18 and 20-years-old were seen in the garden throwing something at the windows and doors of the house.

"They fled after being shouted at by a resident.

"Investigations are underway to see if an accelerant was used.

"The result was tragic incident and a severe loss of life."

Map of Birkby, Huddersfield

He added that the fire crews were "dejected and exhausted" at not being able to save the children.

The fire started at the front of the house at ground level and had spread quickly destroying the staircase, he added.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester suffering from head injuries and severe burns.

There are reports that the dead children were on holiday in Huddersfield from Pakistan with their mother, but Mr Bridgestock refused to confirm it.

He also would not reveal whether she had died along with her children.

Mr Bridgestock said all of the dead had been trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

He appealed to the local community to help find the killers.

CCTV footage

"Why would anyone want to hurt this family, they are a good family and are well known in the area.

"Who and why would they want to do this to the family?

"Someone for some reason decided to take action [against them]," he said.

Mr Bridgestock asked homeowners and businesses who have CCTV to retain their footage and hand it into police.

The bodies of the dead will be removed on Sunday evening after the house is made safe.

The BBC's Catherine Marston in Huddersfield
"The family were all in bed when the fire started"
The BBC's Richard Wells
"Police are working on the theory that missiles thrown at the house contained some kind of petrol bomb"
Det Supt Bob Bridgestock, West Yorkshire Police
"They were a well-known, respected family"

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See also:

12 May 02 | England
Five sisters die in house fire
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