Caneze Riaz & daughters

Caneze Riaz (39)  Caneze Riaz (01 Nov 2006)

Sayrah Riaz (16)  Sophia Riaz (15)  Alicia Riaz (10)
Sayrah (16), Sophia (15), Alicia (10), Hannah (3) – no picture available.

Caneze Riaz (39) and her four daughters, Sayrah (16), Sophia (15), Alicia (10) and Hannah (3) all died from smoke inhalation in their beds on 1 November 2006, in Accrington, Lancashire. Investigators had quickly assessed that the fire was deliberately lit (accelerants used, and the fire started at multiple locations), and that the house had been locked from the inside. The only other occupant in the house, who was found in the bathroom was husband Mohammed Riaz (49), who died two days later in hospital from his injuries. The only surviving member of the family is Adam Riaz (17) who was in hospital receiving treatment for Leukaemia.

Caneze was born in the UK, but spent 15 of her early years in Pakistan. About 20 years ago she entered into an arranged marriage with Riaz. After the death of her father three years ago, Caneze became a very active member in the community and worked for a number of local groups. The couple’s marriage had deteriorated, with one report that they were no longer sharing a bedroom. It was reported that earlier in the evening of the fire, the couple had fought outside the home.

Riaz had become upset about the deteriorating marriage, his wife’s community activities outside the home, and probable jealousy over her friendship with another man.

A recent decision, that I personally find highly questionable, is that the entire family including Riaz are to be buried together.

UPDATE: Adam Riaz, 17, who was in hospital at the time of the fire died of leukaemia in December 2006.

From The Guardian (01 Nov 2006):


Wednesday November 1, 2006 6:48 PMA murder inquiry is under way after a mother and her four daughters were found dead in their beds following a fire at their home. Caneze Riaz, 39, and her daughters, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 15, Alicia, 10 and three-year-old Hannah, were all killed in the blaze in the early hours of Wednesday at their end terrace house in Accrington, Lancashire.

Detectives said it was a “top line of inquiry” to speak to Mrs Riaz’s husband Mohammed, 49, who was pulled to safety by firefighters from the house.

The children, described by neighbours as “little angels”, had been enjoying a Halloween night party just hours before the fire.

Mrs Riaz had earlier visited her son, Adam, 17, who is in The Christie Hospital, Manchester, being treated for leukaemia.

Police have broken the news that his mother and sisters are dead.

Mrs Riaz was described as a very active and popular woman. Neighbours said her husband was more reserved who worked at a local plastics firm but rarely went out of the house.

Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell said Mr Riaz is in a critical condition in Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, with officers ready to question him when he is well enough.

A substance had been used to start several separate fires within the family home, Mr Gradwell added.

Police said the local community was “staggered” at the murders of a well known and popular family. Mrs Riaz, who was mixed race, with English and Pakistani parents, was described as a “pillar of the community” and one of the best known Asian women in the town.

From the BBC (03 Nov 2006):


The father of four girls who were killed when their home was deliberately set on fire has died in hospital.

Mohammed Riaz suffered severe burns in the blaze which killed his wife Caneze, 39, and daughters Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 15, Alicia, 10, and Hannah, three.

Lancashire Police said Mr Riaz, 49, died at Wythenshawe Hospital. Detectives had named him as their “top line of inquiry” in the murder hunt.

Accelerants were used to start the fire at the Accrington home on Wednesday.

Police had said the doors and windows were locked from the inside and whoever started the fire had not left the Trevellen Street house afterwards.

Mrs Riaz and the four girls died from smoke inhalation in their beds.

Mr Riaz, who worked in a plastics factory, was pulled from the house by firefighters and was resuscitated before being taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, in Manchester. He suffered about 50% burns to his body.

A post-mortem examination is due to be held and the death referred to the coroner, a Lancashire Police spokesman said.

He added: “An investigation into the cause of the fire will continue, although all lines of inquiry would indicate that it was contained within the house.

“Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with their investigation.”

Mrs Riaz had been described as “a pillar of the community”.

Police had said they were looking into “a relationship breakdown” between the Mr and Mrs Riaz, who had been married for 20 years.

Floral tributes

Mr Riaz was described by neighbours as a “good family man” who was very quiet and did not socialise other than at his local mosque.

The couple’s 17-year-old son Adam is in hospital receiving treatment for leukaemia. He has been told of the deaths.

Special assemblies have been held at Hyndburn Park Primary School, where Alicia was a pupil, and at Accrington Moorhead Sports College, where her two elder sisters studied.

Mourners have laid dozens of floral tributes outside the house where the four girls and their mother lost their lives.

A book of condolence has been opened for the family at Accrington town hall.

The Blackburn Citizen (04 Nov 2006):

By Sally Henfield

THE motives behind the killing of Caneze Riaz and her four daughters may never be known following the death of her husband, police said.

Mohammed Riaz, described by police as “the prime suspect” died in hospital yesterday.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Hunter said: “The reason why this tragedy happened is the key element that is missing from our jigsaw.

“Mohammed was the only one who could provide us with the information as to why this happened.”

Mr Hunter, who said Mohammed Riaz was the prime suspect, went on: “Now he has died we are unable to get the information directly and we will have to rely on our forensic team and their investigations.”

Mr Riaz died in Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, at 8.33am yesterday as a result of the injuries he sustained in the fire at his home in Tremellen Street, Accrington.

He had suffered burns to 65 per cent of his body and had been having treatment at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

The bodies of Caneze, 39, and daughters Sayrah, 16, Sophie, 12, Alisha, 10, and Hannah, three, were pulled from the house by firefighters at 1.50am on Wednesday.

Their son Adam, 17, survived because he was in The Christie Hospital, Manchester, being treated for leukaemia.

Officers had been investigating the suggestion that Mr Riaz had been depressed over son Adam’s battle with cancer and that he was feeling left behind by his wife Caneze, who was enjoying an increasingly liberated lifestyle.

Mr Neil Hunter said that although there appeared to have been problems within the family, and Mr and Mrs Riaz had rowed outside the property that evening, there were no signs of a fight within the house on the night of the fire. Mr Hunter also gave more details on the blaze.

He said police believed the family had all been asleep when the fire broke out.

Sophia, and Alisha, were in the front bedroom, Caneze was in her bedroom with Hannah, and Sayrah, was in a back bedroom.

Mohammed was found in the bathroom and was semi-conscious when he was pulled from the house.

Police said Caneze and her daughters had not been restrained and were most likely asleep when the fire broke out.

Mr Hunter said: “Fire and smoke spread very quickly.

“If they weren’t asleep there would have been more of an attempt to escape the property.”

All of the windows, apart from one of the bay windows on the ground floor, were locked but none of the interior doors had been secured.

The majority of the damage was to the upstairs of the property, where accelerants have been found.

Mr Riaz was not known to police prior to the fire, said Mr Hunter, although Mrs Riaz was due to her large involvement with the community.

Police have also commended a neighbour for his quick reactions on discovering the fire. The man had been walking home when he heard screaming, which he initially thought was coming from the playground at the end of the road.

Mr Hunter said: “When he realised the cries were coming from inside the house he began to pound on the door and managed to alert other neighbours.

“He handed his mobile to a neighbour while he continued to try to get in the house.”

The Times Online (04 Nov 2006):

By Russell Jenkins

THE FATHER of four girls murdered in a house fire died yesterday morning — taking with him to the grave the secret of what happened immediately before the blaze broke out.

Mohammed Riaz, 49, was hauled from the inferno that engulfed his end-of-terrace home in Accrington, Lancashire, early on Wednesday.

Firefighters found his wife Caneze, 39, and daughters Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 15, Alicia, 10, and Hannah, three, dead in their beds.

Lancashire police had said that they wanted to talk to Mr Riaz about the blaze, which could only have been started by someone in a house, as it was locked from the inside.

Detectives had been waiting at his bedside at Wythenshawe Hospital but he died at 8.33am, without regaining consciousness. He had suffered 60 per cent burns in the fire. Mr Riaz’s death leaves his eldest son, Adam, 17, who is seriously ill with leukaemia, as the only surviving member of the immediate family. Lancashire police said that they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the murders.

Detectives said they had a lot more work to carry out before they complete their investigation but that they could not rule out the possibility that the deaths were an “honour killing”.

It is known that that the couple’s marriage was breaking down. Friends have suggested that Mr Riaz felt outshone by his outgoing wife and had grown fearful that she was developing a relationship with another man.

Under the strain of a disintegrating marriage and his son’s illness, it is believed that he might simply have snapped.

There was a sense of bewilderment as Muslims gathered for Friday prayers in the former mill town.

Mr Riaz, who had spent most of his life in North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, was known as a retiring, religious man at the Raza Jamia mosque in Grimshaw Street, where he worshipped.

Waheed Ahmed, the mosque’s general secretary, spoke of the “absolutely horrific” nature of the murders, echoing the sense of loss felt by the predominantly Pakistani enclave, where Mrs Riaz was a high-profile figure.

Mrs Riaz, who was of mixed race, was born in Accrington but spent 15 formative years in Pakistan, where she made an arranged marriage. She brought her husband back to Britain in the early 1990s and settled close to her parents to raise a family.

Three years ago Mrs Riaz’s father, Abdul, died of a heart attack, after which the constraints of duty and domestic responsibility that had kept her tied to the home appeared to loosen. She began to lead a more Westernised lifestyle and became involved in groups and causes. One, the Hyndburn Cultural Association, works with depressed Pakistani women and young people.

By contrast, Mr Riaz, a former taxi driver who worked for a plastic-bag manufacturer, felt that he had lost control of his family. He could speak little English and had been sleeping downstairs. Detective Chief Inspector Neil Hunter said: “There was a breakdown in the relationship and we are looking into this as part of our investigation. They were leading separate lives but they were cordial and putting a brave face on things for the children.”

The six deaths have touched the community deeply. Many left expressions of sympathy for Adam Riaz in a book of condolence opened by the Lancashire Telegraph. Alana Glendinning, a classmate of Sayrah Riaz, said: “I send all my sympathy out to brave Adam. It must be very hard for him. Sayrah will always be in my heart, and her mum was also very friendly.”

Myrra Taylor, of Moorhead High School, where Sayrah was deputy head girl, said: “My heart goes out to Adam Riaz and to all those people who are grieving at this moment.”

Khadm Hussain, a friend and neighbour, said: “Everybody is so shocked. There are six people dead from the same family. It is very sad.”

Sardar Ali, the chairman of Raza Jamia mosque, said that the Riaz family had been in thoughts at prayers. “Everybody is very sad. They were a good family.”

The number of floral tributes continued to grow outside the family’s house. One large card signed by Sayrah’s classmates read: “Their memory is a treasure, their loss a lifetime regret. In our hearts they will live forever.”

Lancashire Evening Post (06 Nov 2006):


Members of a family who died in a house fire in Accrington are to be buried together.

It is expected that more than 1,000 people will attend the service for the six members of the Riaz family who died in the blaze in Tremellen Street, Accrington, last Wednesday.

Waheed Ahmed, general secretary of the Raza Jamia Mosque, Countess Street, Accrington, said the mosque was liaising with Mr Riaz’s family and the police to arrange the funerals.

He said the family was very popular and the funeral would be held outside the mosque to accommodate everyone. He said it is hoped the bodies will be released next week and a joint funeral, open to everyone, will be held.

Mr Ahmed said: “We only have capacity for 1,100 people and there may be more than this number so we are holding it outside.”

The bodies of Mr Riaz’s wife Caneze, 39, and their children, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 12, Alisha, 10, and Hannah, three, were all pulled from their home by firefighters in the early hours of Wednesday.

Mohammed Riaz, 49, was resuscitated by firefighters and taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. Police wanted to speak to him as their main line of inquiry, but he was pronounced dead shortly after 8.30am on Friday at the hospital.

It is not known whether Mohammed and Caneze’s son, 17-year-old Adam, who is in Christie’s Hospital, Manchester, suffering from leukeamia, will be well enough to attend the funeral.

Mohammed Riaz (49)  Mohammed Riaz, died two days later.


One Response to “Caneze Riaz & daughters”

  1. Bbc3 - Page 2 - Accrington Web Says:

    […] Hyndburn photos: Riaz family tragedy BBC – Lancashire – News – Local reaction: Accrington fire Caneze Riaz & daughters Domestic Violence Memorial (UK) Son’s sad farewell – News – Accrington Observer Shocking TV documentary on blaze family – News […]

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