Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Grandfather tells two-year-old boy who was killed in fire to 'sleep, take your rest'

‘We are happy you are with your mother, who loved, treasured and adored you’

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 23 May 2018 18:43
Grenfell tower inquiry: grandfather tells two-year-old boy who was killed in the fire to 'sleep, take your rest'

The grandfather of a two-year-old boy who died in the fire at Grenfell Tower has paid tribute to his “beautiful” grandson and told him to “sleep, take your rest”.

Jeremiah Deen was found by the side of his mother Zainab Deen, 32, on the 14th floor after the June blaze.

An inquiry into the tragedy, which is in its third day, is opening with tributes to the 72 victims.

Ms Deen’s father, Zainu Deen, said his grandson loved playing football and having adventures.

“We cannot dwell on the sadness or keep asking the question ‘why this happened to our family,” he said a statement read by Michael Mansfield QC.

“Neither will we find a reason why such a handsome and cheerful boy was taken from us at the age of two.

“Instead, we will focus on how happy he made us when he was in our lives.

“Most of all, we are happy that you are with your mother Zainab, who loved, treasured and adored you. She will keep you safe now, as she protected you in life.

“Throughout your short time here on Earth you were so connected with your mother that even death cannot separate you both.”

'You spent a moment in our arms, but you will last a lifetime in our hearts' family say

He added: “Our hearts break. We love and miss you. Sleep, grandson, take your rest.”

In a separate tribute to the 32-year-old, Mr Deen said: “We are so proud to be able to call you our daughter.

“We are grateful for the brief time we were able to spend with you and believe that the angels are rejoicing because one of their loved ones has rejoined them. Until we meet again, beautiful soul.”

​Sheets of paper were placed on seats at the inquiry on Wednesday warning attendees when “particularly upsetting” content could be shown.

Those invited to testify at the inquiry have expressed anger about plans to relocate it away from Kensington.

The first part of the commemorations are taking place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in south Kensington.

The rest of phase one of the inquiry will take place at Holborn Bars in central London, where several procedural hearings have already happened.

“They say this is just for this period because it’s better in Holborn for all the lawyers and all the judges that are there," Professor Chris Imafidon, who tutored children who lost parents in the fire, told The Guardian.

"Everything that’s perceived to be the needs of the survivors, the first thing they say no."

It came after emotional scenes on the second day of the inquiry, when footage of the tower engulfed in flames was broadcast without prior warning. At least 25 people attending the probe walked out of the conference room crying and one woman collapsed.

Several further commemorations will include footage of the tower during and after the blaze, according to the warning document.

Ali Yawar Jafari, 82, who lived on the 10th floor and died after trying to escape the flames, was remembered as a family man who loved animals.

He was pulled from the tower by firefighters after losing contact with his wife and daughter, but was pronounced dead at the scene due to inhalation of fire fumes.

His son, Hamid Jafari, said he wanted to die so he could be with his elderly father in heaven.

“I have never dreamed or thought of going to heaven but now I fight every day, every second, because I want to join my dad,” he said.

“And I pray every day – and even I request my friends to pray for me – that I die soon to meet my father.”

The 82-year-old was happiest when his grandson was born and was very close to him, Hamid said. When he cradles his child now, “I feel like I’m holding my dad,” he said, “I can still smell my dad on my son.”

Mr Jafari’s wife described how her husband once spent three days freeing a pigeon from some string that was tangled around its legs.

“Afterwards, he said he was like a prisoner and he knew he had to free him,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry heard from the family of Tony Disson, a 65-year-old great grandfather who also died on the 10th floor of Grenfell Tower.

Mr Disson’s wife, from whom he was separated, Cordelia Disson, described him as as a “proud” and “devoted” father-of-four who would do anything for his family.

His children were “were always winding him up” by playing practical jokes on him, she said in a video played to the inquiry.

Ms Disson said their son Alfie had named his baby daughter after his father. The infant reminded them of Mr Disson, she said, because she had a habit of biting her tongue, just like her grandad.

“He’s missed. Tony will always be my first love, he’ll always be my last love,” she added.

Mr Disson’s son Lee described time with his father as “magical” because there were “constant surprises”. He said had grown more distant from his father in recent years, adding: “I never thought we wouldn’t get the chance to make it right.”

The last tribute on Wednesday was made to a mother and son, Majorie Vital, 68, and Ernie Vital, 50, who lived together on the 19th floor of the tower. They were found with their bodies fused together after the blaze.

Ms Vital’s only remaining son, who remained anonymous, made a documentary that was played to the inquiry.

As footage showing the charred wreckage of a the inside the tower was played, he said he imagined his brother having to carry his mother to a bathroom in a flat on the top floor after it became clear no other escape route was possible.

“I have imagined myself as my brother in that bathroom, filling the bath with water ... and there’s no way I’m leaving my mother and my mother wouldn’t leave me,” he said.

“And there’s a sense of security in that last moment, knowing you’re not alone. We now have the evidence that their bodies were fused together in the intensity of the fire.”

As a child, his brother was always in his mother's arms, he said. “When they were fused together it symbolised to me their level of closeness that they had, that umbilical cord, that my brother still relatively had intact.”

Tributes were also made to Gary Maunders, 57, who was remembered by his family as a “devoted” Manchester United football supporter who had a great sense of humour.

Mr Maunders lived in the Portobello area and was visiting a friend on the night of the fire. He was also found on the top floor of the tower.

Mr Mauders’ nieces, Channel and Kenita Spence, told the inquiry their uncle loved music and the artist Marvin Gaye.

“He loved to sing, although he couldn’t – that didn’t stop him,” they said in a video played to the probe.

Kieran Mitchell, a lawyer from Slater and Gordon who are representing three families, said: “Today was always going to be difficult for the families, summarising a loved one’s life in words is not a task anyone ever wants to undertake. However, we are grateful that they were given this respectful opportunity.”

Personal tributes from bereaved relatives and friends of Grenfell Tower victims will continue into next week.

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