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Grenfell inquiry opens with tributes to lost loved ones

Sam Tobin reports from Kensington

THE BEREAVED of Grenfell Tower opened the public inquiry into the disaster today with emotional tributes to their loved ones who perished in the blaze.

A dozen of the 72 people who lost their lives last June 14 were commemorated on the first of six days of tributes held at a hotel in Kensington, west London.

Lead counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC read out the names of six victims on behalf of those families for whom “the weight of grief is simply too great to bear [and who have] chosen to grieve privately or in silence.”

They were Victoria King, 71, and her daughter Alexandra Atala, 40, Marco Gottardi, 27, Abufars Ibrahim, 39, Abdesalam Sebbar, 77, and Sheila, 84.

Marcio Gomes, who escaped from the 21st floor with his wife Andreia and two young daughters, gave a moving tribute to his son Logan, who was stillborn just after the fire.

He said that Logan “might not be [here] physically, but he will always be here in our hearts and that will be forever.”

Anne-Marie Murphy, the sister of Denis Murphy, 56, said he was as much “a dad” as a brother to her and her siblings, Mick and Tim.

She said: “We as a family feel strongly that there is no reason in the world why anyone should have death forced upon them in such a horrific way.”

Statements from Saber Neda’s family were read out. His son Farhad said of the the 57-year-old former Afghan army officer: “In the 18 years that we lived in Grenfell, there was never a bad word said about him.”

His widow Flora told the inquiry how they had met in Kabul in 1989 — “It was love at first sight” — before they fled the Taliban in 1998.

She mourned the fact that “my beloved husband will not be with us at Farhad’s wedding and will not be there to … share in the joy of becoming a grandparent.”

Samuel Daniels — who brought a legal challenge to Theresa May’s refusal to appoint a diverse panel to the inquiry earlier this month — gave a brief tribute to his father Joseph, 69, saying: “The events of that night took his life and all trace of his existence from this world.

“He stood no chance of getting out and this should never have happened.”

The inquiry finally heard tributes to Mary Mendy, 54, and her daughter Khadija Saye, 24, read out on behalf of Ms Mendy’s niece and Ms Saye’s father.

Marion Telfer said Ms Mendy, who moved to Britain from the Gambia in the 1980s, was a “humanitarian” who had “completely devoted her life to Khadija.”

She added: “She was warm and kind. She welcomed everyone into her home. Grenfell Tower was a place all her family and friends could find shelter if they ever needed it.”

The inquiry was shown a short documentary featuring Ms Saye just before exhibiting her photography at the prestigious Venice Biennale.

Her father Mohammadou Saye said his daughter’s “burning passion was photography,” recounting how she one day told him: “Daddy, I’m in love with images.”

Moyra Samuels from Justice4Grenfell told the Star that the decision to begin with commemorations was “significant because it actually changes what happened at Grenfell from statistics and cladding and technicals and science to humans, because the fight for justice is not for a building.

“It’s for the community that was affected and the families and the lives that were cut short unnecessarily.”

Labour MP David Lammy told the Star that he was “pleased that the chair has heard some of the criticism” of his appointment and had begun the inquiry with commemorations.

But he added: “Anyone who knows their history knows that we have to remain vigilant and I remain a critical friend of the inquiry.

“[But] it isn’t solely about the inquiry, it is also about the police investigation.

“Until we see a case in the Old Bailey, there will be no justice.”

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