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Grenfell Tower fire inquiry chair heckled as he meets survivors

'If I can't satisfy you because you have some preconception about me as a person that's up to you,' says retired judge

Friday 07 July 2017 00:39 BST

The head of the inquiry into the fatal Grenfell Tower fire was heckled by residents and survivors of the disaster as he met them for the first time.

Retired appeal court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick said he would look into the matter to the "very best" of his ability at a meeting in a centre overlooked by the burnt-out high-rise block in west London.

A short video shows Sir Martin being heckled, as well as him telling the meeting: "I can't do more than assure you that I know what it is to be impartial.

"I've been a judge for 20 years, and I give you my word that I will look into this matter to the very best of my ability and find the facts as I see them from the evidence.

"That's my job, that's my training, and that's what I intend to do. Now if I can't satisfy you because you have some preconception about me as a person that's up to you."

Sir Martin has already faced calls to resign amid criticism and frustration from survivors that the apparent remit of his inquiry may be too narrow.

After the meeting, local resident Melvyn Akins, 30, who was brought up in the area, said there was "frustration, anger and confusion" in the meeting and people were left with "a lot more questions" about their futures.

Concerns about the health of people living near the blaze, the air quality, evacuation procedures, the condition of the block and the inquiry's terms of reference were among the wide-ranging questions posed in the meeting.

Sir Martin told the residents that he was keen to have the terms of reference sorted before Parliament goes into recess saying he could not start his work until the terms of reference were in, according to Mr Akins.

He said: "It is going to be an uphill struggle. People feel abandoned. Now you have got somebody coming in (Sir Martin) and saying 'I am going to look into it all thoroughly' and it is not good enough.

"People firmly believe that arrests should be made as a result of the outcome of all of this. If arrests are not made, people are going to feel justice may not be being done."

As he entered the centre, Sir Martin told reporters: "I have been invited by the Lancaster West Residents Association.

"They are all waiting for me so I am not going to give you any comment about credibility."

Sir Martin left at 9.47pm, almost three hours after he arrived at around 7pm, and described it as a "very useful meeting" before getting into a waiting car.

Resident Jacqui Haynes said she was more angry and frustrated after she came out of the meeting than when she went in.

She said of the retired judge: "He is trying to rush us so they can give us this document where the devil is in the detail and we will have one week to deal with it.

"Us residents who don't have their expertise, who don't have their professionalism and resources have had to fight...

"This is going to be a long fight and we have to persevere. They are relying on us giving up, being tired and becoming overwhelmed."

She said she told the meeting that the official figureheads there, apart from the residents association and including Sir Martin, had been "commissioned by the Government or the council in some way".

She said: "I gave them the message that all the people who were supposed to care about us before, did not.

"With respect, we do not have that much confidence (in them) because they are being paid a hell of a lot of money to trouble shoot this stuff.

"We know they have their own concerns and their own motives for doing these things."

An official start date for the inquiry has yet to be set.

Press Association

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