Nephew of Grenfell fire victim learned about his uncle’s death from firefighter’s shirt

The bereaved relative of a Grenfell Tower fire victim only found out his uncle died after seeing a note on a firefighter’s shirt after the blaze, an inquiry into the tragedy heard on Tuesday. Karim Mussilhy rushed to North Kensington in the aftermath of the fire in a desperate bid to try and find out what happened to his uncle, Hersham Rahman, who lived on the top floor.

When he asked firefighters if he was alive they explained they could not tell him and instead he was forced to put posters up to try and find out what happened. It was only when Karim spotted a note on a T-shirt that he knew his uncle was dead.

Giving evidence at the Grenfell Inquiry today, Karim said in a statement: “I remember I walked back to the front of the tower by Latimer Road station. I saw red London Fire Brigade T-shirts that had been placed there with notes on them written by firefighters.

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“One of them stood out to me ‘to all those on the 21 floor and above we are sorry we couldn’t get to you.’ This was a real surreal moment for me where I began to realise the truth, that the firefighters hadn’t made it to him… that for me was the first communication from an official about the extent of the fire and what it was like inside on the night.”

Holding back tears Karim told the Inquiry: “That moment when I saw the T-shirt. It was the first time I realised my uncle was probably dead and we watched him burn. I’m sure you can imagine what that was like seeing that t-shirt hang sideways… I remember there was a lot of talk about firefighters not being able to make it to the top as it was the hottest and burnt the longest.”

“It was just a heart-sinking moment and I still feel it today. Not just for my uncle but everybody on the top floors. They were doomed. There was no way they were going to survive. They were left.”

Previously Karim had explained how he had rushed to the scene in the aftermath of the fire with only the knowledge that his grandmother had last spoken to his uncle at 3am. But when he had approached firefighters and officials he was unable to find out what had happened to his uncle.

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He explained: “After spending hours handing out posters and speaking to people and not getting anywhere with this I decided to approach a firefighter who was sitting in a stationary fire engine near the Tower. I knew that Uncle Hesham wouldn’t have been able to get out on his own, so I asked the firefighter if they had been able to reach the 23 floor. He said he was sorry but he couldn’t tell us anything about what happened that night.”

He added: “It was obvious to me that they had been told not to say anything. They looked shocked and disturbed and I felt like that they wanted to speak to me but they couldn’t.” The Grenfell Inquiry heard how Karim had been given false hope by people calling him saying they had seen his uncle in Hyde Park and Regents Park after his number appeared on posters.

Instead of an organised response, people were left scrabbling at sights such as Westway Sports Centre and Portobello Rugby club to try and find out what had happened to loved ones or where they would be staying.

Karim said: “There was nobody in there with a clipboard or a high viz – from the council or any authority saying to [survivors] where they were going to sleep that night or where they were going to get their next meal from… They purposefully left people to fiend for themselves. Everything had been taken away from them.”

The Grenfell Inquiry is now hearing evidence from survivors and the bereaved.

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