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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 16:41 GMT
Town mourns fire tragedy deaths
by Rebecca Atkins
BBC News, Lancashire

The close-knit community has been left devastated by the tragedy
The community of Accrington has been devastated by the fire which killed a mother and her four daughters in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Lancashire town, famed for its mills and football team, was stunned to learn that the fire in Tremellen Street had been deliberately started.

But despite the sadness which engulfs it, friends, neighbours and relatives are putting aside their grief and shock to help police with the murder inquiry.

The family were well known within the close-knit community and the tributes, which have flooded in following the deaths of Caneze Riaz, 39, and her four daughters, have constantly spoken of Mrs Riaz integral role within it.

Mrs Riaz, who was born in the UK but had been educated in Pakistan, returned to England when she was about 16.

She headed a child improvement programme for the Hyndburn Cultural Association, which works with schools and mosques.

Manager Munsif Dad described her as a "warm, kind and sincere person" and paid tribute to her "high civic virtues" saying she was a "beacon" for building good relations between different backgrounds.

"She was in a unique position to do this as Caneze, although a Muslim, came from a mixed English and Pakistani background and was therefore well placed to understand the concerns and feelings of everyone," he said.

She was extremely popular - Accrington has lost a real pillar of the community today
Mohammed Kabir, colleague

She was a board member of the Hyndburn Community Network, which brings together groups in the area.

Mohammed Kabir, 23, who worked with Mrs Riaz at the Scaitcliffe Community Centre, described her as a "pillar of the community".

He added: "She was extremely popular - Accrington has lost a real pillar of the community today."

Role model

Another colleague, Javed Khan, reiterated this sense of mourning saying that Mrs Riaz was renowned for her devotion to helping the community in any way she could.

As well as working as a project co-ordinator, Mrs Riaz also helped out as an interpreter for the local authority.

Mr Khan said: "In a day and age where role models are few, she's one of the few people that was out there to make a difference.

"Only a couple of days ago there was an event at the town hall, an Eid and Diwali Celebration and she helped put that together.

"As a worker she's absolutely fantastic. She's committed, passionate, effervescent."

Mrs Riaz was described as a pillar of the community

The bodies of Mrs Riaz and her daughters Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 15, Alicia, 10, and three-year-old Hannah, were recovered by firefighters after they broke into the end-terrace property just before 0200 GMT.

Just hours earlier, the girls had been enjoying a Halloween party at the property.

The girls' father, Mohammed Riaz, who is believed to work at a plastics factory in Blackburn, survived the fire but is in a critical condition in the specialist burns unit at Manchester's Wythenshawe Hospital after being resuscitated by firefighters.

The couple's son, 17-year-old Adam, was in hospital receiving treatment for leukaemia when fire ravaged the property.

Chief Superintendent David Mallaby, from Lancashire Police, said: "Rarely, if ever, have I come across a tragedy of this nature, particularly when you consider that it may well have been a deliberate event.

"The family played an active, positive and major role in local community life and the sense of loss, tragedy and disbelief is quite staggering."

Just hours after news filtered through about the tragedy, locals were gathering to lay flowers close to the spot where Mrs Riaz and her four girls perished.

Mother and girls murdered in fire
01 Nov 06 |  Lancashire

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