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I lied to woman who begged to die in Grenfell blaze with son, says firefighter

Christopher Batcheldor told the inquiry he had to keep up the pretence that Zainab Deen, trapped on the 14th floor, would be rescued.

A woman whose two-year-old son was killed in the Grenfell Tower fire begged to join him before perishing in the flames while on the phone to a firefighter.

Zainab Deen and toddler Jeremiah both died after becoming trapped on the 14th floor of the burning high-rise.

Their harrowing final moments were relayed by firefighter Christopher Batcheldor, who heard “ear-splitting” screams which confirmed to him “that was it”.

Mr Batcheldor, a crew manager at Fulham, reassured the frantic mother, who identified herself as Zenay, that they would be rescued after being handed a phone by her brother, Francis.

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Two-year-old Jeremiah died in the fire (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He recalled hearing the little boy crying from the beginning of the call and said he was “gagging” to hear the door kicked in by fire crews.

After about half an hour, the toddler stopped coughing and crying.

In a written statement to the inquiry, he said: “Zenay was crying ‘My boy’s dead’.

“She said ‘I want to be with my son’.

“I said ‘Don’t talk like that. We are coming for you. Don’t give up’.

“I then passed the phone back to Francis and said ‘Tell her you love her and that you are waiting for her. Tell her to keep fighting’.”

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Zainab Deen died in the tower block (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mid-way through the call, which lasted more than an hour, Mr Batcheldor said he learned that crews were unable to get above floor 12.

He said: “I knew I couldn’t tell her this. I just couldn’t tell her that so I basically lied to her and continued to tell her that we were coming for her.

“It got to a point where she wasn’t talking much. I could hear a bit of coughing and spluttering. I could hear that she was still there but she wasn’t responding.

“I kept on chatting to her. For Francis, I had to keep up the pretence that she was OK.

“When she stopped responding I could hear a little whimpering but I kept talking to her in case she could hear my voice.”

After five to 10 minutes of silence, he heard “ear-splitting” screams for about 60 seconds as the fire “got to her”.

He knew then that Ms Deen had died, but could not bring himself to break the devastating news to her brother.

He said: “I told him that we had got disconnected and perhaps her battery had gone.

“He asked me if she was out. I told him we (the fire brigade) were right there, trying to get to her.”

He added: “Francis hugged me and thanked me.

“He said that Zenay would be really grateful.

“I knew that I had just lied to him.”

Afterwards, Mr Batcheldor told the unit collating information from emergency calls from trapped residents that the pair were dead.

Some 72 people died as a result of the fire on June 14 last year.

The inquiry, at Holborn Bars, central London, is hearing a last day of firefighter evidence before it pauses for a month.

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