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Grenfell fraudster who claimed fasting drove him insane is jailed for five years

A fraudster who claimed fasting drove him insane and led him to pose as a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire has been jailed for five years for the £33,000 scam.

Abolaji Onafuye Credit: Met Police

Abolaji Onafuye falsely claimed to have lived on the 11th floor of the Grenfell block, which was destroyed by fire in June 2017.

The 54-year-old, of Gorleston Street, Hammersmith, west London, also claimed he had been related to one of the 72 people who died in the blaze, Isleworth Crown Court heard.

Onafuye claimed for accommodation and financial help worth around £33,000 from Kensington and Chelsea council and the charity Rugby Portobello Trust.

This included a stay at the Grosvenor Hotel at #190 a night from June to October 2017 and the cost of the temporary accommodation at Gorleston Street, the court heard.

Onafuye denied two counts of fraud by false representation but was found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on Tuesday December 11.

Judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh said on Tuesday Onafuye had shown no remorse for the scam and had even accused genuine victims of lying.

Jailing Onafuye for five years, he added: "The fire at Grenfell Tower on June 14, 2017, was a tragedy in which dozens of innocent lives were lost, families were ripped apart and communities devastated.

"It was a disaster which shocked the nation. Most people reacted with horror and dismay and feelings of deep sympathy and profound concern for the survivors.

"Your response was very different. You decided to use the situation to your personal advantage to enrich yourself dishonestly by plundering public funds designed to assist genuine victims of that disaster in their hour of need."

Judge Curtis-Raleigh said that even after his arrest in June this year, Onafuye continued lying, first by accusing residents of lying, then claiming at trial he had been suffering from temporary insanity caused by not eating during Ramadan.

He added: "You denounced the genuine victims, the genuine occupants of 84 Grenfell Tower whose statement had been presented in that interview as liars and you have continued lying.

"You have shown not a shred of remorse throughout these proceedings." Ben Holt, prosecuting, said Onafuye had planned the scam by spending time in the Grenfell area after the fire and getting to know the names of victims Zaynab Deen and her son Jeremiah.

He added: "The defendant did spend time in the area of Grenfell Tower after the fire. At some point, he clearly came to know the names of two victims of the fire.

"He simply could not have plucked those names out of thin air."

Zainu Deen, Zaynab's father and grandfather of Jeremiah, who both died in the fire, said he was horrified fraudsters had tried to use their names to make a profit.

In a statement read to the court, he added: "I found this horrible and disturbing. I cannot really believe that anyone would use the tragic events of June 2017 to their benefit.

"Surely these people know there are real families who are suffering and whose lives will never be the same again. These men appear to have only used their name and home address as a tool to obtain money.

"I am angry, cross, confused and incredibly frustrated."

A statement from Edward Daffarn - a resident who escaped the blaze and vice chair of Grenfell United - read to the court said it was "pouring salt in the wounds" of the bereaved that fraudsters were exploiting their misery for gain.

He added: "It is pouring salt onto the wounds of bereaved and ex-tower residents to know that the deaths and trauma we have had to endure is seen simply as an opportunity for others to profit and exploit."

Onafuye represented himself after sacking his barrister before the sentencing hearing and said he had never meant to cause anyone distress. He said he had a sick mother, disabled son and three other children who relied on him "morally and financially".