Grenfell Tower: One Month On Newsnight

Grenfell Tower: One Month On

Four weeks after Grenfell, Newsnight finds the first evidence of cyanide poisoning among survivors. Plus why do so many not believe the official number of dead?

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Tonight, four weeks after Grenfell burned, Newsnight has established


the first evidence of cyanide poisoning amongst


We hear new testimony of a family's escape


And the agony of losing their unborn child.


As it settled on my body, obviously everything goes to the baby.


The amount that he received, it was obviously enough


Nazreen Aklani lost her mother and her aunt in the fire,


both are missing and presumed to have died.


Four weeks on - has anyone helped her get the answers that she seeks?


And why are survivors so unwilling to believe


what the authorities tell them - especially about the


I was speaking to a friend of mine last week and they said that he's


We go in search of evidence that the official death count


is wrong and ask why so many doubt it.


I said, we've got social media out here.


We'll ask two London politicians if it's possible to end


Four weeks after the inferno, the charred carcass


of Grenfell Tower looms over North Kensington like


a malevolent machine, casting still darkening shadows over


But as the political debates continue and the parameters


of the official enquiry are slowly established, there is perhaps


a danger of losing sight of the myriad human


For example, the youngest victim of the fire, who was yet to be born.


Andreia Gomes was seven months pregnant and had already


named her unborn son-to-be Logan when, with her husband


and their two daughters, she escaped from the 21st floor


The baby growing inside her did not survive.


And tonight, we learn that Andreia and her husband


Marcio's eldest child, the 12 year old Luana,


received a diagnosis of cyanide poisoning -


the first to be recorded among the survivors.


They have been telling their story for the first time


A warning - some people may find it upsetting.


We didn't use soft words, we didn't say


that her baby brother was


sleeping with the angels, sleeping as everybody does every night.


We said Logan died and these are the reasons Logan died.


The Gomes family lived on the 21st floor of Grenfell


Next month they should have been celebrating the birth of their


son, anticipated with much excitement by his older sisters.


We were making plans, he can sleep with me,


floor and I'm going to play with him, they were very excited and we'd


Instead, their home is gone and their son,


who they had already named Logan, was delivered stillborn by Caesarean


section as his mother and sisters lay in induced comas in hospital.


I knew something was wrong straightaway when they took the


mother as a priority, so I broke down.


And then later on they said that the baby had passed


They can't say 100%, but they said that the heart couldn't cope


with the lack of oxygen, the baby didn't get,


so they have done a full autopsy including toxins to see


exactly what caused the baby's death.


They said that they believed the poison went in and settled on my


body, and everything goes to the baby.


Especially, seven months is when the lungs of the baby starts to


The amount that he received, it was obviously enough to


There has been speculation in the four weeks since


the fire about what toxins may have been released as the building


The family allowed Newsnight to film their discharge papers from


Their 12-year-old daughter's diagnosis


Her mother and sister were also treated


This is the first confirmation of a cyanide


poisoning diagnosis as a result of the Grenfell fire.


It is believed to be from the insulation.


I imagine it would be from the plastics that


were melted and burning, but the smoke was certainly,


you know, so intense, as soon as you got a mouthful, you


were gagging, you were constantly gagging on the way down.


I can't imagine what my daughters were going


through at the time and I'm sure you were gagging as well.


You were always having the gag reflex, it was that


This was the family's flat where they sheltered, unable to


They had been advised that firefighters would rescue them but


two hours and up to five emergency calls later, just before 4am,


The curtains were on fire, the Moses basket was


on fire, that side of the window was on fire.


I looked at the window and thought it must have cracked.


Everything was fine so I knew that the fire came in between the


There were a lot of gaps because of the insulation they


The only thing I could do was literally grab the door,


and then I looked and said we have to go now,


there's no turning back, we have to try.


I was holding the rail and I kept shouting, keep going,


keep going downstairs, try and give them as


At one point my daughter replied to me


I realised she must have let go of the rail.


I turned round, stopped, I turned around and said


I'm waiting for you, follow my voice, I kept shouting to them.


I kept climbing the stairs and she said, I can't, I can't, and she


The smoke was so heavy, you couldn't see anything


that was there, so I was shouting to them, waiting.


Thankfully at that moment I looked down and there was a


light coming up and it was a fireman.


They were rescued but the delay on the staircase meant that he


had lost Andreia and their younger daughter.


I said I needed to go back and see where my wife is and


the policeman said, I'm not promising anything


I relaxed a bit at that point and then the other one


said, is your daughter's name, Megan?


I said I was good because they had got out.


An ambulance took the family to hospital where the


Did you know immediately that you had lost your son? Or did you have


to tell Andreia? Before she got brought out of


the coma, moving a little bit, very I was talking to her and the first


thing she did was to try and put her hand on her stomach


and said, I'm sorry. The family have nothing


but praise for the support they've received from the NHS,


firefighters and friends. As for those who decided


to cut costs on I'm very angry with


them because it could That's where the anger


really stems from. Yes, it was an accident,


I'm sure, but it It shouldn't have


happened like this. The residents never wanted


the cladding in the first place. When you go ahead


knowing that something could happen and they ignored that,


this is me, personally, I feel that I don't know if is


the right word, but you just killed so many people


and you just killed my son. In a normal situation


I could have gone out, he was seven months, he


could have survived. But because of their


conditions, he... Andreia and Marcio Gomes


talking to Katie Razzall It is worth stressing that we do not


know where the cyanide came from, whether it was plastics from inside


the building or the insulation. Sadly, neither the Government


nor council were able Her mother Sakineh


lived on the 18th floor On the night of the tragedy


she was being visited by her sister, Nazreen's aunt Fatimeh,


and both women described the unfolding horror


on the telephone to family members Presumed but not yet confirmed dead,


the uncertainty surrounding their situation is also


being endured by many other grieving families and their continuing pain


is exacerbated by a lingering suspicion that the authorities


are still being less I am so sorry for your loss and


thank you for joining us. One would presume that four weeks after the


tragedy, you had find out rather more than what you have about what


happened to her mother and your aunt, is that the case? We know more


in terms of meeting other victims and we have approached them, we have


found things out for ourselves and... No, it has taken so long for


the numbers to reach 80. The next day the numbers of dead were nine.


We always knew it was more and we still know it is more, that is no


information for us. It is things that we assumed. You mentioned


dealing chiefly with other survivors and grieving families, what lines of


communication do you have with what you describe as the authorities? We


have very little communication, we have been given a key worker and we


have had to run around so much. We were given a family liaison officer


by the police quite quickly. And through them we were promised to


have a key worker which puts us in touch with the council and they are


supposed to help us, introduce us to things that are available and


everything. And it took so long to have one of those in place. We


literally had to chase the officers to be able to find out who that


actually is and once in place, a number of phone calls we have had to


make chasing her up, I would rather have called the places myself and


have everything done. We find out through other means and had to put


it to her, there has not been much communication. What is it you are


mostly trying to establish that you have been unable to? One of the main


things we have been trying to do and I know my brother sorted out the


Housing for my disabled brother and we have been trying to sort that


provisionally ourselves because there was no key worker and when she


came in she took over and did nothing with it and we had to ring


her and remind her, the MP as short as this would get done. She called


us one week later to say the council has refused everything and when we


asked for her to put us in touch with the manager that took that


decision, she spoke to my brother, I believe today or yesterday, to say


the manager is going on annual leave and she left it as that without


telling us who else would be in charge. Which I find quite shocking,


so many people traumatised and going through this tragedy, not just


myself but everybody, and the managers and the council say that it


is OK to continue with annual leave. You say not yourself but you still


do not know for sure what happened to your mother? No. My brother was


on the phone to them, we know they went to the 23rd floor and we know


they died there because... Do you understand by the authorities have


been unable to definitively confirm that to you? Yes, they let them burn


for too long. You know... What is more horrendous than getting burned


alive? You ask yourself, is there anything worse? I am afraid there


is... Having no remains and yes, it has taken so long because they


failed to put out the fire when they should have. When I went to that


site in the morning, we were there all day, there was still fire inside


the building, the next day, 24 hours later. And because of that, yes, it


is hard for them to tell us what has happened to my mother and my auntie


because they have been so burned that the coroner defines them as


calcified, there was no organic matter in the bones for them to be


DNA tested. And I do not know who took the decision to decide that


they did not need to fight the fire any more. I do not know why somebody


who was responsible for that far decided it was OK to stop fighting


it and let everything else burn. Because... That decision has cost us


the remains of our family. That we could have had. And I see that as a


criminal offence. That should be investigated.


You have no remains to bury. We have no remains, since the first day, we


told our family liaison officer that we want to have a video of the


coroner's search. They said, we think this is part of their work


anyway. The victims' meeting at Olympia, we were told there was no


video. We have taken pictures. Commander Cundy said yes, we will


get these pictures out to the families because we are very keen on


them, it is our right. Just like everything else, it was a waste of


time, time we could have spent grieving. We weren't given the


pictures as they promised, they said they would get them to us


immediately. We have been denied everything. I have no idea what's


out there. For all my no, they could be in one piece. I should stress


that there is an open invitation for the Council or central government to


address many of the questions that are continuing to be thrown up by


this awful, all full tragedy. Thank you for joining us.


I spent several hours at the scene today and almost


everyone I spoke to, from the local MP to the manager


of the Maxilla social club that sits in Grenfell's shadow,


told me that the official response to the tragedy remains inadequate


It is perhaps unsurprising that this perceived absence of accountability


and authority has fostered an environment in which suspicion


and mistrust have been allowed to fester.


Tonight - a vigil for those that died took place at the tower.


From the death toll itself, which currently officially stands


at 80, to the efforts to rehouse survivors, many report a deep


And it is a distrust which could ultimately hamper any


inquiry that requires the cooperation of a community


profoundly sceptical about almost everything they are being told.


So many questions about Grenfell hang in the air.


The definitive answers are many months away.


The public inquiry hasn't even decided


its terms of reference yet, which questions it will investigate.


I was here covering the fire on the day


and have followed the story ever since.


And one thing that has made Grenfell seem very different to me,


feel different from a lot of other similar disasters is how widespread


and how strong is the view that the authorities are lying to us


At the heart of this view is the question of how


That number is established by the police.


But is it really more than that, and if so,


are the police, the government, the Fire Service and the media all


colluding in a cover-up to downplay this disaster's true death toll?


If you're not going to report the right numbers, there's no


There's no point you being here because all


I and many of my colleagues have had encounters like this one.


People throwing their children out of the


You can see first hand there's more than 58 missing posters


The media, seen as in collusion with the


powerful who want to suppress the truth.


We've got social media, we've got social media out here, we don't


Rumours become hardened into fact, despite


I've got a friend who works for the fire brigade here.


Yesterday on the phone he said they found about 42


It's only because we know him, he's a fireman,


This Facebook video that alleges that 42 bodies were


found in one flat has been seen by more people than the nightly


audience for BBC and ITV's main bulletins put


A claim that then finds its way into the mouth of a


The 79 figure that has stood for a week does not accord


with those who lived down there and say


that the survivors, there is a


In one flat alone, people say there were up to 40 people gathered,


because they had gathered there, it was Ramadan.


In the cold shadow of Grenfell Tower I met Virginia Sang.


She lives in one of the three blocks of maisonettes that radiate


She has lived there since she was a child.


The official figure is 80 at the moment, dead or missing.


I was told Sunday after the fire it was 200 and


Right, and that rings true to you, it is more


Yeah but I was speaking to a friend who said he has been told


Well, we don't know, I'm praying it's not.


We don't think they new how many people lived in the tower, because


the tower was very overcrowded, so they don't have the correct number


for how many people was living there.


Do you think there were many people who weren't on the books?


But despite investigating these claims, Newsnight has so far found


no evidence that such large numbers were in the tower.


To calculate the total number in Grenfell that night


we need to know the number of people who escaped.


The police say it was 255 and add the number of missing


The police say the number is 80, implying a total of 335


All the people you can see on these posters


are accounted for in some way, they are either


officially confirmed as


So if there were many other people, dozens, even hundreds of other


victims of the Grenfell fire, where is the evidence, where are the


people looking for them, where are the neighbours, the friends and


Unless they were so anonymous that nobody knew they were


As for the argument that 100 or more undocumented


migrants were living in the tower unknown


to the authorities, the


police have detailed lists for who was living


the block, so where were these extra people supposedly living?


Official figures from the police are that 80


18 are from the 106 flats where the police have


The remaining 62 are from 23 higher flats where the police have been


The police have said they have not discovered a flat containing 42


Identifying, even numbering victims is a huge and slow


30 years ago, 31 people were killed in a fire at King's


Cross Station and it took months to identify some of the victims.


It is a grisly truth that in a high temperature,


long burning fire like Grenfell, very little human evidence


The upper floors of Grenfell became effectively a crematorium, the


temperature must have been 2000 Celsius.


A crematorium is a roundabout 1600 Celsius so what


would be left is not an identifiable body but fragments of bone and ash


To identify a body we need not just the teeth and


get DNA from that body, we need to have something to compare it with


Independent groups and organisations try


to put together lists of the


dead and missing have not identified the scores or hundreds of missing


victims that some believe died in the blaze.


Without having access to the police's data, the BBC has


managed to identify 72 of the 80 people


An unchecked crowd sourced database has come up with 83 names.


We have completely failed to find any evidence to support the idea


that a real number of casualties from the Grenfell fire is


significantly different from the numbers that the police


That leads to a rather obvious question.


Why are so many so determined to believe that the


One factor is certainly the lack of trust in any of the institutions


We know, for example, that Grenfell residents tried to raise fire


safety concerns for years but felt ignored.


Many in social housing complained of unresponsive, uncaring


Especially in central London, where they suspect the councils


would rather sell off valuable sites to developers.


She said something like, I have put wet towels under


the door and I am just really scared.


Rizwan Hussain lost a friend and fellow activist in


He is sceptical of conspiracies but understands how


In regards to the local authority, I think there was just a lack of


answers coming from them, there was a lack of representation.


Everything on the ground was basically community-led.


People were asking the question, where are the local authorities and


Where is the organised system in place of


And that didn't happen until a few days after.


Questions about numbers and where people are,


who people are, because they are not being answered, there is a sort of


And that suspicion extends to the people that


used to be trusted to report tragedies like Grenfell.


Now, the media is seen by some as peddling


In collusion with the powerful to mislead and


Do you have have a lot more faith in the people you talk to around


More than the authorities or even the media, to explain?


Yes, because we understand what we're


going through, we are the ones going through it.


And we understand it because we're all very close.


Or put on what they want to see or what they


We have had no trust in the council for years.


So that has made us even worse than what we were.


Do you simply not trust us to tell the truth?


I have seen some things that they have shown and


A human tragedy of this scale touches so many


lives in ways that can never be recorded in official statistics.


What is clear is that no appeal to the facts as explained and


interpreted by authority figures and established media will do much


to reform the strongly held opinions that swirl around this disaster.


Sian Berry is a Chair of the Housing Committee


And Shaun Bailey is a Conservative Party member of London's Assembly.


He grew up close to Grenfell - in the borough of


It would seem there has been an epic breakdown of public trust or an epic


escalation. Do you think this dispute over the death toll is a


symptom or a cause? I think it is a symptom, it has to be said there was


a lack of information about the death toll and one thing the police


normally do in cases like this is put out an estimate of who they


think was in the incident and how many people might have survived and


those key pieces of information were not given by the police for a very


long time, they would only give that number so it is understandable there


would be scepticism. I challenge the Mayor and the police and this week


for the first time they have put out those numbers and we can have a


debate, the police think there were 350 people inside and locals might


have different views and before there was nothing to talk about


because the police had not given those numbers. It is very important


that is clear. In terms of general mistrust, I was called there, myself


and Sean are London wide Assembly Members, representing everybody who


needs our help and I was asked to come down five days in London are


required to help get some practical things done. Largely for the wider


community rather than people who had been evacuated, people still in the


area, feeling besieged by the media, wondering where any support might


be. An absolute lack of information about things like road closures,


whether even the school would be open. There was nothing for people


and I think you saw that day when you doing everything, there was no


information. And it is still not much better and I am still getting


messages from people every day, I have had to go back three or four


times, there is something very broken there and people are still


fending for themselves. This is a vacuum into which volunteers have


moved and in many ways continue to bear the brunt of front-line service


that the residents expected to be provided by the council. In the


continuing absence of the council, it took the former head 80 days to


effectively show his face in public before resigning. The continuing


absence on the ground of the council, how can these people be


expected to place faith in the council that they perceive as


letting them down badly? They simply will not, I lived there for a very


long time, my friends and family out there, the reaction of the community


does not surprise me, they have always been reactive, we look after


our own, the council failed by not giving this a human face and saying


we are responsible for putting this right, I understand they are scared


of litigation. Do you understand the scepticism about the numbers? I do


not buy into the conspiracies but I fully understand why and where that


is coming from. If you look at social housing, many people across


London are under different leadership, Labour and Conservative


and whatever, they feel social housing is inflicted upon them, they


have no say, it is not explained why it works the way it does and does


things have built up over years. Our community is told its Muslim members


are terrorists and the young black men are criminals so they hold out


to people who do not try to understand them. The council have


built up quite a good reputation, they did a lot of work on the


ground, that has been trashed by a very poor response to this. The new


council leader has a very steep hill to climb. Some residents would


dispute your notion that there was much in place to trashed. We are


familiar with the action group's blog that warrant and predicted. You


had a community on the ground that the council would largely work with


a mini youth groups etc, but when it comes to social housing, which


affects a much larger group of people in the area, the council were


too distant, they have moved away. Do you understand how that has


happened? Yes, as a country we do not punish those in high places and


what happens, when I speak to young people, they say, I bet you nobody


gets in trouble for this. And there is a very serious thing that can be


done, the enquiry, the terms, how the Yoko -- local people... It is


important someone explains to them what that enquiry means, you have to


manage expectations right now because if not, you will never


rebuild the trust. This is an important moment. The enquiry will


fail without this trust? This is an important moment for the political


establishment to start rebuilding trust. Do you have optimism that


that can happen? Against a backdrop that is almost unspeakably big? Yes,


local people are organising, trying their best but they are not being


given resources and we need a complete reconfiguration of


democracy there. ?300 million in Chelsea's back. Why not give that to


voluntary groups to get on with what needs doing? We have seen three


changes of leadership, of who is running the relief organisation and


we are waiting for things to get sorted out, if those organisations


and charities had the funding... It is not just about funding. In the


short term. It is about disaster response, hand on heart, other


council leaders across the country, can they say they would respond


better? Probably not. You need a group of people seen enough to make


decisions on the ground, anybody directly affected should not find


things out in the media, they should be contacted directly and first. And


that is not happening. Without that response and team and the seniority


to deliver, you will always disappoint the local people. Many


thanks to both of you for your time. The Government - in the shape


of the Deputy Prime Minister in all but name, Damian Green -


said today that it was likely that we'll get a good deal with the EU


and the chances of there being no deal at all is


"probably overstated." But in tonight's Viewsnight,


David Cameron's former advisor, Julian Glover, urges them to get


on with it. On the issue of that deal -


or no deal - with the EU, there are two particular issues that


may need urgent attention. First, the UK's scheduled


withdrawal from membership of the European nuclear regulator,


Euratom, about which the medical and scientific communities have


expressed grave concern. And - separately -


we heard warnings today from Ryanair that all fights to the continent


could be grounded if we don't get an air transport


agreement in place sharpish. Our Political Editor,


Nick Watt and our Business Editor, Helen Thomas have been looking


into both of these matters. I will begin with Nick Watt. What do


we know about the Euratom situation? The government is facing the


prospect of its first major Brexit rebellion over plans to pull out of


that treaty. I have learned the government is planning to negotiate


a form of associate membership of that treaty. It is not technically


an EU treaty but it is overseen by the European Court of Justice. I


understand this movement by the government will be enough to satisfy


some of the Tory rebels. They believe that associate membership


could be happy halfway house that could set precedent for a half in,


half out future relationship with the EU and they except the UK cannot


go back into Euratom as a full member because advice from UK and EU


lawyers is cleared- if you leave the EU, you have to leave Euratom, even


though it is not technically an EU treaty. We might have to wait for


this to be announced, the government will set out its position paper on


Euratom but that will be general and the rebels will hold back for the


moment. And some news on that Repeal Bill? Labour have announced this


evening but unless that will is amended, they will vote against it


at its second reading in early September. Keir Starmer, the Shadow


Brexit Secretary, says that Bill allows the government to record too


much power and mirrors what he described as flawed approach on the


European Court of Justice. If Labour votes against it, it will not


necessarily stop the bill in its tracks because potential Tory rebels


would not vote against it at the second reading but it will embolden


them to amend it with Labour further down the line and ministers are not


happy, they say, do not reverse the will of the people. Many thanks.


Helen, what did Michael O'Leary have to say? Classic Michael O'Leary, he


was in the European Parliament, time to do with reality, flights. After


Brexit, Ryanair would shift their craft, we will have to holiday in


Scotland or Ireland. You get the idea. The single market and aviation


allows airlines to fly freely in Europe and is no fallback option so


you need a new agreement and his view is this will not happen because


of the red lines put around negotiations by the government and


that is debatable. What is truth is airlines sell seats about one year


in advance so you need to get a move on. You say classic Michael O'Leary,


is airlines sell seats about one year in advance so you need to get a


move on. You say classic Michael O'Leary, busy flying solo? I have


spoken to several industry types and they are overwhelmingly confident


there will be a deal, Willie Walsh, the boss of the owner of British


Airways says he thought it would be relatively straightforward. The


reasoning, governments on both sides and airlines on both sides want to


deal, otherwise everybody loses, tourism, trade and business. There


are compensations, a basic bilateral deal preserves UK to Europe flights


and vice versa but not necessarily easy jet flying around Europe.


Ownership is a problem because current rules require you to be a


majority EU owned. Ultimately, the industry thinks we will get a deal


because it would be unimaginable chaos without that. Thank you both


very much indeed. We just had to leave you with this


piece of surreal theatre from Perhaps by repeating it we're just


proving the author's point, but here's the actor Andy Serkis,


who plays Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, reading out


Donald Trump's Twitter feed. AS GOLLUM: The fake news media has


never been so wrong... Purposefully incorrect


stories and funny sources. We had a beautiful day


across the UK today, just a bit of fairweather cloud


here and there. Tonight, clear skies


and there is raw chill on way,


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