Grenfell Tower: Inquiry opens with tribute to stillborn baby

  • Published
Media caption,

The inquiry has opened with tributes paid to those who died

The father of a baby stillborn after his parents escaped the Grenfell Tower fire has spoken of his loss on the opening day of the public inquiry.

Marcio Gomes was in tears as he recalled holding his son Logan, hoping it was a bad dream.

The child was stillborn in hospital on 14 June 2017, hours after his parents fled the blaze.

Relatives of all 72 victims will be given the chance to commemorate loved ones during the inquiry.

The inquiry will look into all the deaths - including one victim who died in January, having been in hospital since the blaze.

Five others were remembered on the inquiry's first day, which began with a 72-second silence in memory of those who died.

They include artist Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy, Denis Murphy, Joseph Daniels and Mohamed Neda.

Families are being given as long as they want to tell the inquiry about their loved ones through a mixture of words, pictures and videos.

Image caption,
The father described his son as the inquiry was shown this image of Logan Gomes

Mr Gomes said "everything was ready" for his baby's arrival, including a message that had been painted on the nursery wall. The inquiry was shown an ultrasound picture of Logan, who was due on 14 August but was born two months earlier.

With his wife, Andreia, sat beside him, he said it had "felt like our hearts had broken".

"He was going to be my superstar," he added.

Image source, Grenfell Inquiry
Image caption,
One of Denis Murphy's "proudest days" was his son Peter's graduation form university, the inquiry was told

The family of Denis Murphy told the inquiry "the day he died a part of all of us died".

Joined by Mr Murphy's son, brother, and ex-wife, his sister Anne Marie said the last time they had spoken was at 02.32 during the fire, when she had told him they were on their way.

She described her brother as "our hero" and the "linchpin to our family".

Solicitors representing the family of Mohamed Neda read tributes from his brother, son, and wife.

Farhad Neda said his father was his "best friend and the man I admire most".

Both Farhad and his mother Flora were in a coma after the fire.

"My father and I were a great team together," he said.

Image source, Grenfell Inquiry
Image caption,
Mohamed Neda would get on with anybody, his family said

"Regardless of working a night shift he would not hesitate in coming home in the morning, picking me up, and driving me to (Taekwondo) competitions."

All the medals and photographs from these competitions were lost in the blaze, Farhad added.

He described the "deep pain" at knowing his father would not be at his wedding or ever hold his grandchildren.

"He has left everyone with very happy memories. I have missed him so very much," he said.

'The love of my life'

Mr Neda's wife of more than 27 years, Flora, said it had been "love at first sight".

Media caption,

The inquiry heard the last phone message of fire victim Mohamed 'Saber' Neda

The pair had arrived in the UK in 1998 after fleeing persecution in Afghanistan.

"Our hopes and our dreams have been shattered," she said. "There is a heavy sense of loss within our hearts that will never, ever go away. He was my husband, my best friend. I miss him so much. He will always be the love of my life."

The inquiry was played an audio recording of the last call from Mr Neda from the night of the fire. In it, he said: "We are now leaving this world, goodbye. I hope I haven't disappointed you."

Meanwhile, a BBC Panorama investigation has discovered that the insulation that burned out of control on the Grenfell Tower had never passed the required safety test and should never have been on the building.

The programme also accused the firm of mis-selling the insulation. Panorama has been advised that the way Celotex tested and sold the insulation could amount to corporate manslaughter.

Celotex said it could not comment because it was co-operating with the police investigation and public inquiry.

At the inquiry

By BBC reporter Emma Harrison

Image caption,
Barrister Kieran Mitchell said "this horrific event has obliterated so many lives"

A respectful silence descended on the conference room as the tributes to those who lost their lives in Grenfell began.

The first, father Marcio Gomes, grieving for his baby son Logan, wept as he recalled the excitement his wife's pregnancy had brought to his family.

The family of Denis Murphy bowed their heads on stage as a tribute was read in honour of their "hero" father and brother.

Around them in the audience - the bereaved, friends and family - showed their support with loud applause after the tributes. Some gave a standing ovation. Others were in tears.

In the short breaks between tributes, those in the room hugged and consoled each other.

Above all else there is a sense that the room of survivors and bereaved need answers. Answers they hope this inquiry will give them.

The family of photographer Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy were joined on stage by Labour MP David Lammy.

A statement from Khadija's cousin Marion, was read by the family solicitor.

"The pain is unbearable. There are no words to describe the emptiness in our hearts," she said.

"There will be two empty chairs at every birthday, Christmas and new year, but they will forever own a position in our hearts. We will carry their memories throughout our lives."

Marion described her aunt Mary as her "hero", the "strong one, the fighter and protector".

A statement read on behalf of Khadija's father, Mohammadou Saye, talked about his daughter's passion for photography.

"Khadija said to me one day: 'Daddy, I'm in love with images.' It was this passion Khadija pursued to the end because it gave her great satisfaction and brought her some joy and some happiness."

A piece of film - part of a documentary filmed by the BBC about Khadija's work for an international art exhibition in Venice - was also shown to the inquiry.

It included interviews filmed inside the Grenfell Tower flat where she lived.

Media caption,

Grenfell Tower: BBC Three documentary of Khadija Saye shown at inquiry

Joseph Daniels' son Sam asked for no applause after his short commemoration.

"My father moved to London in 1982 and Grenfell Tower was his only home since then," he said.

"The events of that night took his life and all trace of his existence from this world. He never stood a chance of getting out, it should never have happened."

Opening the inquiry, chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the fire was the "greatest tragedy to befall this city" since World War Two.

He said the sight of the 24-storey tower "engulfed in flames" is "indelibly imprinted" on all who saw it.

The retired judge said it was "fitting" the opening of the inquiry should be dedicated to those who died.

All the victims' names will be read out at the hearings, taking place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in South Kensington, west London, but it is understood that not all families will give a tribute.

Lead counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett, said beginning the proceedings in this way will mean "we will never lose sight of who our work is for and why we are doing it".

Media caption,

Grenfell Tower: The key moments as the fire spread

The inquiry will then begin taking evidence from other individuals and organisations, as well as evidence from expert witnesses.

This will take place at Holborn Bars in central London, where several procedural hearings have already taken place.

This first phase of the inquiry will focus on the facts of the night in North Kensington, including where and how the fire started, how it spread and how the building was evacuated.

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