Grenfell firefighter: I couldn't face telling mum she wouldn't be rescued

2 August 2018, 15:06

A firefighter sent to the Grenfell fire has recalled how he could not bring himself to tell a trapped woman that she and her son would not be rescued.

In a written statement submitted to the inquiry into the disaster, Christopher Batcheldor acknowledged that he lied to Zainab Deen and toddler Jeremiah, who were trapped on the 14th floor of the west London tower block.

Mr Batcheldor, a crew manager at Fulham fire station, spoke to Ms Deen, known as Zenay, after being passed a phone by her brother, Francis.

In his statement he relayed the pair's harrowing final moments, recalling hearing "ear-splitting" screams that confirmed to him "that was it".

Mr Batcheldor said he heard a little boy crying from the start of the call and said he was "gagging" to hear the door kicked down by firefighters.

Around 30 minutes into the conversation, the toddler stopped coughing and crying.

In his statement, Mr Batcheldor 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'."

Mr Batcheldor learned half-way through the call, which went on for more than an hour, that his colleagues in the tower were not able to get above the 12th floor.

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."

Mr Batcheldor said there was then five to 10 minutes of silence, before he heard "ear-splitting" screams for around a minute as the flames "got to her".

He knew Ms Deen was dead, but could not face telling 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."

Mr Batcheldor told the unit collating information from emergency calls made by trapped residents that Ms Deen and her son were both dead.

More than 70 people died in the June 2017 blaze.

The inquiry into the fire has heard its last day of evidence from firefighters and will now pause for a month.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, head of the inquiry, said it would next meet on 3 September for a brief procedural hearing.