Grenfell Tower inquiry: 'Wonderful' El-Wahabi family remembered


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Grenfell Inquiry

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The El-Wahabi family lived on the 21st floor of Grenfell Tower (clockwise from top left): Faouzia, Nur Huda, Mehdi, Abdulaziz, Yasin

A “wonderful” family of five who died in Grenfell Tower as they waited to be rescued from their home have been remembered at the fire inquiry.

Hamed El-Wahabi broke down as he told how his brother, Abdulaziz, 52, had left a mark on friends and colleagues.

Tributes to the other members of the El-Wahabi family – Faouzia, 41, Yasin, 20, Nur Huda, 16, and Mehdi, eight – were read by Hamed’s wife and children.

Nine-year-old Sara’s tribute to Mehdi ended with a poem by a school friend.

Abdulaziz, a porter at University College London Hospital was a “popular colleague known for being kind to his patients”, his brother said.

Born in Morocco, he had moved to the UK as a child, and lived on the 21st-floor of Grenfell Tower, where 72 people died as a result of the fire on 14 June last year.

Abdulaziz’s family told reporters after the fire that Faouzia had said on the phone that emergency services had advised them to stay inside their flat and wait for rescuers.

Hamed, who also lived in Grenfell Tower, said: “After our father passed away, Aziz became the heart of our family, he took on a father figure; the supporter, the protector and the carer.”

He said it was still hard to accept “the heartbreaking news of what had happened”.

Faouzia El-Wahabi was remembered by her sister-in-law Hanan as a wonderful baker who had a talent for sewing.

“She had a real presence in the community and was loved by many,” Hanan said.

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Huda, who was in the middle of her GCSEs, was remembered by her younger cousin Mariam.

She told the inquiry: “We all wanted to be like her. We soon came to the realisation it was impossible to be like her – she was too unique.”

Zak Chebiouni said football coach and accountancy student Yasin was also an “inspiration” to others, adding that a “piece of him will always live on through me”.

A statement from rap musician Lowkey, a friend of Yasin’s, told of a “beautiful, soft, curious and respectful young man”.

Nine-year-old Sara read out a tribute to Mehdi from his headteacher at Oxford Gardens Primary School, in which he was described as “thoughtful and kind, supporting his classmates through learning challenges, always providing guidance and reassurance to those who were unsure”.

He was particularly talented at karate and wanted to be a vet or a firefighter, the tribute said.

Sara also recalled playing with him and the young daughters of the Gomes family, his neighbours on the 21st-floor, who managed to escape the fire but whose baby Logan was stillborn shortly after.

Wearing a grey sweatshirt top with Grenfell written on it, Sara said: “I am looking forward to continuing playing with baby Logan’s sisters again, but it is difficult knowing that Mehdi will never be able to play with us ever again.”

Day-by-day: the inquiry so far

At the inquiry

By Duncan Leatherdale, BBC News

All the commemorations have paid tribute to the best qualities of each person, as you would expect.

But what makes a particularly powerful impression are the little personal details.

Vincent Chiejina was the only person his sister Obi knew who could actually make crisps at home.

Abdulaziz El-Wahabi always greeted people in the same way, “hello guv’nor” for men and “hello darling” for women.

His wife Faouzia, who also died along with three of their children, was a talented baker and seamstress.

It is those details, as much as the kindness, infectious happiness and all-round magnificence of the deceased, that really reminds you that behind these many names were real, relatable people.

It’s also worth noting the extent to which the inquiry is trying to make this incredibly hard task as easy as possible for the bereaved.

From counsellors around the room and calm-down breathing classes after each session, to breaking on time for afternoon prayers, the emphasis at the moment is still very much on those who lost so much.

Loved her home

The inquiry also remembered the “lovely, bubbly” Ligaya Moore, 78.

Her friend Nenita Bunggay said the Filipino pensioner, who had lived in the UK for 43 years and worked as a nanny, was a “mother, sister, everything”.

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Grenfell Inquiry

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Ligaya Moore was said to love visiting restaurants and shopping

She recalled Ligaya’s visits to restaurants and shopping trips, adding her friend “was so proud to live in Grenfell. She would always say every time we walked past: ‘Nenita, that’s my building, 21st floor. It’s a big building and I love it so much, even though I’m alone there, I love seeing it every day'”.

She added: “Especially the fireworks, she loved that kind of beautiful thing from her building.”

Vincent Chiejina, 60, who was found dead on the 17th floor, was a massive fan of Star Trek, his sister Obi said in a video tribute on behalf of his family.

Vincent had grown up in Nigeria before their family moved to the UK and he studied engineering at Sheffield University.

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Grenfell Inquiry

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Vincent Chiejina’s family paid tribute to him for helping others

His sister said: “I think he was also quite good at looking after people who were quite vulnerable like himself. So he would never reject anybody just because they were less privileged than himself, and he was always good at spotting that, not exploiting it… wanting to quietly support them with whatever troubles they had but also making them feel good.”

She added: “He guided and gave directions to others. Let’s celebrate and remember those who help others.”

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