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  1. ITV Report

Poignant tributes open first phase of Grenfell Tower fire inquiry

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has opened with poignant personal tributes to victims of the fire.

Bereaved family and friends gathered for the first day of the independent investigation, almost a year after fire swept through the west London block on June 14 last year.

It began with 72 seconds of silence - one second for each of those who lost their lives.

Officials then handed the floor to those mourning their loved ones, who were given the chance to share their memories of the victimsin a series of deeply personal tributes expected to last over a week.

Among those remembered on the first day was Logan Gomes, a stillborn baby who was the youngest victim of the tragedy.

Promising artist Khadija Saye, 24, and her mother Mary Menday were also among those given public tributes on Monday.

Khadija Saye was among those being remembered today. Credit: PA

The hearing, led by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, heard the tragedy was the largest loss of life from a domestic fire since the Second World War.

Mr Moore-Bick has vowed the inquiry "can and will provide answers to the pressing questions as to how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London".

But it will keep the focus on those who lost their lives, said lead counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett.

It was for that reason it is opening "with the individual human voices and faces of this tragedy."

While all the victims’ names will be read out, it is understood that not all families will give a tribute.

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The commemorations follow a week of significant victories for campaign groups including Grenfell United, Justice 4 Grenfell and Humanity 4 Grenfell.

They will be followed by evidence over the circumstances around the fire and how the events played out.

Slater and Gordon barrister Kieran Mitchell, who is representing three victims’ families, said the opportunity for them to have their voices listened to had been “a long time coming”.

He said: “Starting this inquest process with statements and images means we have an stark understanding of how this horrific event has obliterated so many lives.

“On behalf of our clients, we are grateful they are have been granted this opportunity to finally reveal the impact these truly terrible events have had on them.

Protesters call for justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire at a demonstration in May Credit: PA

“However, this is just the beginning. We must get the answers everyone craves and understand how this tragedy could ever have been allowed to happen.

“Ultimately our clients want justice and we will not rest until those culpable are held accountable.”

Mourning families won the right for a diverse panel to sit alongside Sir Martin after months of campaigning and a petition backed by grime artist Stormzy and more than 150,000 supporters.

Panel members will be appointed for the second phase of the inquiry, due to start later this year, so as not to delay the first part. The Government also promised to consult on banning flammable cladding from high-rise buildings.

Faces of the victims of the Grenfell disaster Credit: PA

The commemorations are taking place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in south Kensington, a new venue closer to the Grenfell community.

Private rooms, quiet areas and a prayer room will be available for the bereaved, survivors and residents, while there will be counselling and NHS support.

As the hearings are taking place during Ramadan, the morning sessions are expected to adjourn for lunch at 12.45pm to allow Muslims to prepare for the 1pm prayer.

The rest of phase one of the inquiry will take place at Holborn Bars in central London, where several procedural hearings have already happened.

Campaigners have complained that the location is not suitable as it means survivors will have to undergo further trauma by travelling in “deep claustrophobic tube tunnels” each day.

A protest outside Parliament over the Grenfell Tower inquiry panel Credit: PA

The probe is believed to have the largest number of core participants to date, with more than 500 survivors, bereaved families and friends, and members of the North Kensington community participating.

As of Thursday, some 533 people have been made core participants in the inquiry, including 21 children. Twenty-nine organisations are core participants.

The main hearing room has a capacity for 500 people and bereaved, survivors and residents will be reserved seats at the front each day.