Unmasked: survivor of King's Cross fire goes before judge to claim damages for scars that will never heal

He was the man in the mask, the King's Cross fire survivor so badly burnt that his face needed a shield against the world in order to heal.

Kwasi Afari Minta, now 43, endured a year in his plastic face and underwent innumerable skin grafts to repair the damage. He emerged bearing scars which will never heal.

His head is larger, carrying the fire-fused reminders of the night in November 1987 which he will never forget. He takes shirts four sizes bigger than before. His hands are clumsy blocks of welded tissue and his mouth cannot form an O. His eyelids will not close. "I am a different person now," he said yesterday as he appeared at the High Court in London to claim damages against London Regional Transport (LRT).

LRT admitted liability shortly after the London Underground tragedy in which 31 people died and dozens others were injured at King's Cross station. It has paid out more than pounds 4.5m in 110 claims of death, injury and property damage.

Bar one disputed claim, Mr Minta's is the last to be settled. The worst of the many badly-burnt survivors, he is representing himself before Mr Justice Toulson. The hearing should begin in full today.

Outside the court after yesterday's brief opening, Mr Minta, of Putney, south-west London, told how his horrific injuries have completely changed his life. No longer able to play the guitar or keyboards or sing (surgical tubes in his throat damaged that too), his career as a studio musician ended when a fireball engulfed him as he left the Piccadilly Line escalators.

Though he returned to the recording studio afterwards to finish work in progress, it was impossible. "I fell far short of being able to do it." His marriage crumbled under the strain. "When [his then wife] came and saw me, she couldn't handle it. We had to break up," he said.

He tried working as a minicab driver, but his appearance deterred passengers. Now he has re-trained in desktop publishing. With a new wife Regina, and a son, Eugene, five, he has tried to re-build his life. But it is a very different one. "I don't want any public life, I feel uncomfortable with it. I would rather stay at home and guard myself against the staring," he said. For it is the staring that makes his new existence intolerable. "People laugh, they don't know what has happened to you. My life has been unbearable. If I had my own world, it would be better - a place where I don't have to meet people." Walking down the road, he will notice children stop, then point and giggle. "I have never got used to that ... Do you vanish or what?"

Ghanaian-born Mr Minta did not know the extent of his injuries for a long time. In fact, he was so badly burnt he did not even feel the pain for two days, he said. After passers-by tore the burning clothes from his body, it was impossible to exit from King's Cross station and he had to take another Tube train to neighbouring Farringdon station to receive first aid.

He spent six months in Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, wearing the mask to keep his skin moist while his face was re-built. Only when he left the ward did he see his face in a mirror for the first time. "It was the worst thing on the earth," he said. "It has taken me almost 10 years to adjust to people. But people don't adjust to me. It is perpetual misery."

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past