Tributes paid to '72nd victim' of Grenfell blaze at inquiry commemoration

A wife who died seven months after the Grenfell Tower fire and an opera worker who always had a smile on her face are the latest victims to be commemorated at the Grenfell Inquiry.

Tributes were paid to 74-year-old Maria del Pilar Burton, widely considered to be the 72nd victim of the June 14 blaze, and Deborah Lamprell, 45, who died in the fire.

Also remembered was Rania Ibrahim, 31, who live-streamed her final moments from the top floor of the tower where she was trapped with her young daughters.

Mrs Burton's health deteriorated badly following the blaze, her husband of 34 years, Nicholas Burton, said.

The commemoration heard about more victims of the blaze on June 14 last year (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The commemoration heard about more victims of the blaze on June 14 last year (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Also known as Pily, she was diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and suffered great distress after her home was incinerated on June 14 last year.

Mr Burton remembered his wife with warmth and humour on the second day of the inquiry, but said the fire had changed everything.

He told the hearing at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in South Kensington: "The trauma had a terrible effect on Pily's dementia. She was very distressed."

Mr Burton too was forced to undergo life-saving surgery in the wake of the fire due to an enlarged heart. His wife's condition had worsened by the time he emerged and she suffered a stroke in January. She never recovered, and died on January 29.

He said: "She was a unique, beautiful, exceptional person until this tragedy had taken it away. It took away her dignity and everything we had in this world.

"And let me tell you, no matter what indiginities my wife had to suffer, my Pily was perfect."

Ms Lamprell, known as Debbie, was described by her mother Miriam as a "happy and fulfilled" woman who loved being around people.

In a statement read out by Ms Lamprell's Opera Holland Park colleague, Michael Volpe, she spoke of her guilt at encouraging her daughter to move into a council block where she thought she would be safe.

The night she died, Ms Lamprell sent a text to say she was safe at home, her mother said, which read: "I've got in, mum, all's well, goodnight, god bless."

She continued: "I thought 'that’s OK, she's safe'.

"I went to bed and I got up in the morning and I didn't have a daughter."

She added: "I am bereft without her. If she had died a normal death I would have been able to hold her and comfort her and say goodbye, but I feel a part of me has been ripped out. Nothing seems worth it any more."

The sister of Ms Ibrahim, Rasha Ibrahim, told the hearing of her desperation to understand why her sister and her daughters, Hania Hassan, three, and Fethia Hassan, four, had died.

Following the fire came a "cruel time of false hope and rumours" and months of uncertainty before Ms Ibrahim and her children were identified and buried.

In a statement read to the inquiry, she said: "To this day, the questions remain in my mind and plague me about what exactly happened - it is very important for me to take part in this process of questioning, to find out the truth.

Rania Ibrahim lived on the top floor of the tower (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Rania Ibrahim lived on the top floor of the tower (Jonathan Brady/PA)

"It is so important for me to understand how I have lost Rania, my beloved sister, while my children, who are still so young, have lost their little cousins - I cannot lay them to rest yet."

Opening Tuesday's session, Bernard Richmond QC pointed out there were counsellors wearing NHS T-shirts or green and orange scarves flanking the room if people needed support.

Tributes to further victims will continue to be heard as the day progresses.

The inquiry is expected to observe a minute of silence in memory of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing on the first anniversary of the
atrocity when it reconvenes in the afternoon.

The commemorative hearings began on Monday morning with a 72-second silence as a mark of respect to those who died in the fire.

Harrowing tributes were heard for a stillborn baby who died after his mother escaped the blaze, and a beloved father who was a hero and role model.

The hearings are taking place at the South Kensington hotel as it is closer to the Grenfell community.

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

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