Grenfell Tower fire: Survivors and bereaved call for first inquiry report to acknowledge authorities failed residents

‘We get scared going to sleep every night thinking or knowing we might wake up to another Grenfell’

Chiara Giordano
Saturday 26 October 2019 11:14
Survivors, the bereaved and campaigners marched in silence to remember the Grenfell victims

The long-awaited first report from the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire must acknowledge the building's management failed its residents, survivors and bereaved relatives of victims have said.

Members of Grenfell United (GU), one of the groups representing those affected by the disaster, want the first official conclusions to find the 24-storey block was “non-compliant” with building regulations.

They called for inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to criticise authorities, even if he feels the reasons why failures occurred must be further explored in the probe's second stage.

The next phase of hearings will look into the refurbishment of the building and the lead up to the blaze. The report on the first stage of the inquiry, which examined the night of the fire itself, will be published next week – 28 months after the blaze and following a series of delays which have frustrated the local community.

The inquiry has previously heard evidence from Dr Barbara Lane, an expert witness, that the block was plagued by a “culture of non-compliance” with basic fire safety measures.

Karim Mussilhy, 33, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the blaze, said the community's confidence in the inquiry was “almost non-existent," with survivors and the bereaved “hoping for the best but expecting the worst".

The GU vice-chairman added: “We know that this report is not going to give us justice – it’s too early for that – but it will be a good start, a good way to set the tone for phase two, and a good way to show that changes can happen now, we don’t need to wait until the end of the inquiry.

“It’s not about us anymore: we are not fighting for our homes, and we can’t get our loved ones back, we are fighting for the rest of the country because we get scared going to sleep every night thinking or knowing that we might wake up to another Grenfell.”

It is understood the first report will run to at least 1,000 pages and is expected to painstakingly detail the timeline of events around the night of the fire. Sir Martin will also make specific recommendations.

Another campaign group, Justice 4 Grenfell, said the inquiry had begun with “act two, scene one” by looking at the night of the fire before the historical context, which would make it appear that those accountable were being let “off the hook”.

Earlier this month, London Fire Brigade (LFB) published a report detailing what changes it has already implemented since the fire – but Mr Mussilhy dismissed this as a “PR stunt”.

GU chairwoman Natasha Elcock, 42, who escaped the fire with her family, said it was “absolutely essential” the brigade's “stay-put” policy was reviewed because high-rise residents no longer took it seriously after Grenfell.

She added it was crucial the report acknowledged the innocence of 45-year-old Behailu Kebede, who lived in the fourth-floor flat where the fire started and deserved to be “explicitly exonerated”.

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Mr Kebede was offered witness protection after being subject to a “campaign of harassment” and "media intrusion", the inquiry has previously heard.

Seventy-two people died as a result of the fire after it broke out at the tower block in north Kensington, west London, shortly before 1am on 14 June, 2017.

Bereaved families, survivors and residents of Grenfell's Lancaster West estate will meet Sir Martin on Monday, and will then be given 48 hours to read the report before it is made public.

A short pre-filmed speech from Sir Martin will air on Wednesday, when the report is to be laid before parliament.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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