Aftermath: Phil's family have the news they were dreading. But still they wait ...

As the death toll in the London bombings rises to 55, the family of Phil Beer, a 22-year-old hairstylist, are struggling to come to terms with a terrible loss. And still they cannot bury him. By Julia Stuart
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The Independent Online

He had been caught up in the Tube train bombing near King's Cross 10 days ago, along with his partner, Samantha Badham, 36, who is missing, feared dead. The couple were childhood sweethearts who had been together for nearly 13 years.

So far, 41 victims have been formally identified and 32 names have been released by the police. Polish trainee accountant Monica Suchoka was confirmed as one of the dead yesterday.

While the waiting is over for some relatives, their agony is not. The family of Phil Beer, a 22-year-old hairstylist from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, whose name was formally released on Friday, are still waiting for his body to be released by the coroner, despite receiving confirmation of his death on Monday. They had been hoping to hold his funeral this week.

"It's wrong, we've been left hanging around for eight days," said his mother, Kim, 47, on Friday. "It's been the longest eight days of my life. I do appreciate that there are a lot of people out there who have lost loved ones and they haven't found their bodies. Perhaps we are the luckiest ones."

"It would have been nice to have been with our boy when he died. It would have been nice to hold him," said his father, Phil, a 47-year-old plasterer, his voice breaking.

On the day of the blasts, Phil, who lived with his family, was travelling to Sanrizz, the Knightsbridge hair salon, with his friend, Pat Barnes, 22, where they both worked. Phil had only been there for two weeks. "It was going to be the making of him," said his father.

When Phil's sister Stacy, 24, heard of what was initially power surges on the Piccadilly line she sent a text message to Pat, as Phil had lost his phone. "Pat rang when he managed to get off the train, just sobbing and saying a bomb had gone off in the train and he couldn't find Phil anywhere. He was in just such a state," said Stacy.

Pat had shouted out for Phil while they were in the carriage and he replied that he was OK. Pat then said, "We're going to die", and Phil replied, "No, we're not". Pat pulled himself out of the train and a man helped him upstairs. He was treated in hospital for severe burns and never saw his friend again.

"I knew Phil wasn't coming home," said Kim, "but you still get the thing in your heart that you're wrong. He had no ID on him and could be at another hospital unconscious or under a different name - 10,000 things go round in your head - but you know after 48 hours you haven't got any chance. Especially down there, 150ft underground in that heat."

Sitting in their lounge, the family described Phil as a colourful character who was always the centre of attention. There was laughter when Michele, 25, one of his four sisters, talked of when she had begged him to tone down his hair for her wedding. Phil pitched up for her big day proudly sporting a new peroxide blond mohican.

There were smiles too, when Stacy remembered when she would go up to bed only to hear Phil hooting with laughter with his friends downstairs as they sat around the dining-room table. Sometimes he and his friends would squabble over who would wear what outfit for Gay Pride.

Phil loved to party. On the odd night in, he would complain to his mother that he had been "in all week". He was too busy for a serious boyfriend. "Once you met him, you never forgot him," said Kim.

Proof of that were the many cards on the mantelpiece that surrounded a photograph of Phil with the mohican. Friends from as far away as Japan, Portugal and France, who the family didn't know, have been in contact to offer their sympathy. Numerous pictures of him have been placed among the floral tributes at King's Cross.

While his parents said they couldn't thank the emergency services enough, they were critical about what happened next. "The help we got was totally and utterly useless," said Kim. "We phoned up the hotline, as we were told to, and we were on the phone for three and a half days and still nothing. We rang every single hospital. All we were told was 'stay by your phone'."

Friends and relatives went to London to put up photographs of Phil in the hope that someone had spotted him. "The worst thing is that they knew exactly where he was and who he was with and we waited three days. I kept phoning up and even went down to the police station at night," said Phil, who sat in his son's room, hoping he would come home.

On the Saturday after the blast, police liaison officers came to the house to collect items containing Phil's DNA as well as swabs from his parents. The following day, the police returned. "They said they were 99.9 per cent sure it was Phil by his tattoos, his piercings and his hair [which was black and red], but they had to be 100 per cent sure and then we had to get dental records and medical records. On Monday they came back and said it was definitely Phil," said Kim.

She is understandably angry. "Ask Tony Blair to bring my son back," she said. "I blame him, I blame everybody. I hate everyone at the moment. I hope the people who did it rot in hell."

However, Phil, holding her hand, has decided to follow his son's example. "I have no hate in my heart for the people who did it," he said. "My son never hated anyone. They're not going to beat me. That's what they want, they just breed hate. When I go up north to see my mates I love to go into a takeaway and see Asian or Pakistani people talking in a northern accent, it brightens my heart, I love it. I love it. There is nothing better than going into London hearing some Asian bloke talking in a cockney accent. The majority aren't like that. As far as I'm concerned my son loved and lived and I'll love. I'm not going to get eaten up with it."

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