Grenfell firefighter couldn't face telling mum she would die

A firefighter has recalled having to keep up a pretence that a woman trapped in the Grenfell Tower fire was going to be saved - despite knowing crews were unable to reach her.

Christopher Batcheldor was on the phone to Zainab Deen, who was trapped on the 14th floor with her two-year-old son.

Midway through the call he learnt crews could not get past the 12th floor.

"I basically lied to her and continued to tell her that we were coming for her," he told the Grenfell inquiry.

He broke down on Thursday as he recalled the phone call, which lasted over an hour.

Ms Deen, 32, and her son, Jeremiah, both died in the fire.

Mr Batcheldor, a crew manager at Fulham, had been handed the phone to speak to Ms Deen by a man called Francis, who he believed was her brother.

He told how Ms Deen's son died while he was on the phone to her.

He recalled hearing a young boy crying at the beginning of the call, but was later told by Ms Deen, "My boy's dead" and "I want to be with my son".

He replied: "Don't talk like that. We are coming for you. Don't give up."

He then passed the phone back to Francis and told him to "tell her you love her and that you are waiting for her. Tell her to keep fighting".

When Mr Batcheldor learnt Ms Deen could not be rescued, he said he "just couldn't tell her".

He said he had to "keep up the pretence that she was OK" for Francis, even when she was no longer responding.

After five to 10 minutes of quiet he heard "ear-splitting screams" before silence.

He knew Ms Deen had died but could not bring himself to tell Francis and instead told him they had been disconnected and perhaps her battery had gone.

The inquiry has heard five weeks of evidence from London Fire Brigade personnel and in October will hear from survivors, the bereaved and the local community.

The inquiry's chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said he hoped all evidence would be heard by the end of 2018 with an interim report released early in the new year.

Read more news of London on our site.

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