‘Goodbye. I hope I haven’t disappointed you’: Grenfell victim’s last words
Inquiry into London tower-block blaze that killed 72 opens with personal testimonies
Grenfell Tower inquiry: Marcio and Andreia Gomes said their son, Logan, “was going to support Benfica in Portugal and Liverpool in the UK”. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty
The chairman of the Grenfell Tower inquiry, Martin Moore-Bick, warned at the start that there would be “much sorrow” in the days ahead, and the first day of hearings was filled with raw grief and heartbreaking sadness.
Beneath giant screens in a characterless hotel conference centre in South Kensington, in London, relatives and friends remembered six of the 72 people who died in the worst tragedy London has seen since the end of the second World War.
The commemorative hearings opened with a tribute to a baby who was stillborn in hospital hours after his parents and sisters escaped the fire, on June 14th last year. Logan Gomes’s father, Marcio, with his wife, Andreia, by his side, spoke about the happiness the prospect of their first son had brought to them.
Mr Gomes and his family lived on the 23rd floor of the building when the fire engulfed it. Ms Gomes had been due to give birth to Logan in August. “He was so beautiful, so restful. He looked like he was just asleep. At that point it felt like our hearts had broken,” Mr Gomes said.
The inquiry, which will run into next year, will spend the next two weeks hearing tributes to those who died from their friends and family. Mr Moore-Bick began the hearing with a 72-second silence in honour of the victims.
The second tribute was to Denis Murphy, whose mother, Anne, moved to England from Limerick in the 1950s, and who lived on the 14th floor of Grenfell Tower. His sister Anne Marie said that, as the fire spread swiftly upwards in the early hours of June 14th, Mr Murphy spoke by phone to his brother Tim, who tried to reassure him that he would be rescued.
“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. The day Denis died a part of all of us died too. To us Denis was an inspiration, and we feel lucky and blessed that he was part of our family. His warmth and love will stay with us forever,” she said.
The wife, son and brother of Saber, or Mohamed, Neda, a refugee from Afghanistan who worked as a chauffeur, spoke through their solicitors, Martin Howe and David Howe. The two men wiped away tears as they read the statements, ending with that of Neda’s wife, Flora.
“Saber had always been there for all of us. He never complained and he always did everything with a smile. He was my husband, he was my best friend. I miss him so much. He will always be the love of my life,” she said.
The tribute ended with a recording of a phone call Mr Neda made from the tower when he knew there was no escape and the fire was about to claim his life.
“Goodbye. We are now leaving this world. Goodbye. I hope I haven’t disappointed you. Goodbye to all,” he said.
Mr Moore-Bick stressed the importance of hearing personal testimonies about those who died, describing them as an integral part of the evidence before the inquiry and a reminder of its purpose. The inquiry placed no restrictions on the form or duration of the tributes, with some using photographs and video recordings while others read statements.
Among the most impactful was the shortest, lasting only a few seconds, by Sam Daniels to his 69-year-old father, who died in the flat they shared.
“My father, Joseph Daniels, moved to London in 1982. Grenfell Tower had been his only home since then. The events of that night took his life and all trace of his existence in this world. He never stood a chance of getting out. It should never have happened,” he said.