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Grenfell inquiry chairman focused on answers after ‘humbling’ tributes

Sir Martin Moore-Bick said he had found tributes to the victims of the fire ‘moving’.

The chairman of the Grenfell Tower inquiry vowed to provide answers to victims’ families as a week of “humbling” tributes ended with 72 seconds of silence.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick praised the “courage” of the grieving relatives who had spoken of their loss, saying their words illuminated how much humans “have in common”.

He said: “As we move to the next stage of the inquiry, my team and I are determined to provide the answers that you seek.”

Commemorations to 69 of the 72 victims had been made by loved ones over the course of seven days, forming a poignant overture to the months of detailed evidence hearings ahead.

At the close of the final day, counsel to the inquiry Bernard Richmond QC read each of the victims’ names in turn before asking those present to observe a 72-second silence.

He said: “The value of the last few days in providing us with that understanding, or even a small part of it, has been not just invaluable, it has been essential.”

Sir Martin then drew the hearing to a close, saying: “I know I’m not alone in finding the past few days both humbling and moving.”

Reflecting on the tributes, the judge said he had been struck by the courage of all who spoke, the “tragic waste of young lives cruelly cut short”, the “loss of that special wisdom” the older victims provided, the “quiet dignity” with which the portraits were given and the “strong sense of community in Grenfell Tower”.

He continued: “The portrayals of those commemorated were so vivid, they made you feel that you had indeed spent a little time in their company and that you had come to know them.

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Raymond Bernard left behind three grandchildren (Metropolitan Police/PA)

“Each of us, in our own way, has felt touched by their loss and by the gaping hole in so many lives that they have left behind.

“Most of all, however, these past few days have provided a powerful reminder of how much, as human beings, we have in common.

“Those whom we have been remembering came from many different countries and many different cultures, but they displayed many human qualities of which we should all be proud.”

He was met with applause at the end of his statement.

During the final day of tributes, the Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea (RBKC) was accused of “corporate negligence” by the daughter of a disabled victim who was housed on the block’s 18th floor.

Nazanin Aghlani, daughter of Sakineh Afrasehabi, told the inquiry that the housing allocation team at the council shared responsibility for her death.

RBKC, which owned the block, had placed the “vulnerable, physically disabled and partially sighted pensioner” in a high flat, snatching away any chance of escape, she said.

The 65-year-old Iranian grandmother died with her visiting sister Fatemeh on June 14 last year.

It was alleged that the local authority had agreed in 2003 that she should not be placed in a flat that was above the fourth floor.

Ms Aghlani said: “Our mum lost her life not only due to the fire that night but to the corporate negligence of the very people who were to ensure her safety.

“The very people who said, years before, that she was not to be housed above the fourth floor of a lifted building.”

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(PA Graphics)

The inquiry was also told how one victim, Raymond “Moses” Bernard, offered shelter to six other residents, including 12-year-old Jessica Urbano Ramirez.

The 63-year-old, who died with his dog Marley, had lived in his top-floor flat for more than 30 years.

His sister Bernadette Bernard, fighting back tears, told the hearing: “We know from the details shared by the coroner that Ray was a hero on that tragic night.”

At times frustration was evident in the hearing room at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, South Kensington.

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Sadiq Khan was among those in the audience (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

There were groans of dismay from the audience when it was announced that Karim Khaloufi, the younger brother of victim Khadija Khaloufi, 52, was unable to attend the public inquiry after suffering delays with his visa.

The husband of Fatemeh Afrasiabi, 59, missed the chance to pay tribute to his beloved wife or visit her grave because his immigration application was refused.

Mr Khaloufi’s solicitor, Balvinder Gill, said he finally obtained a visa but there were “related difficulties in securing support with accommodation and related problems”.

Also remembered on Wednesday were six members of the Choucair family, four members of the Balkadi family, Gary Maunders, Khadija Khaloufi, Fatemeh Afrasiabi and Isra Ibrahim.

The end of the commemorations paves the way for the factual stage of the inquiry to begin.

Sir Martin is expected to begin hearing evidence on Monday, which, over the course of many weeks, will focus on issues including the causes of the fire, the rescue effort and the experience of those trapped inside.

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