Grenfell Tower Inquiry occupant of flat where fire started demands exoneration from

Images released to the inquiry show how Grenfell Tower was engulfed by flames Once outside Mr Kebede watched in horror as the fridge fire spread escaped from his flat, took hold of the building’s external cladding and spread up the side of the tower.“He desperately wanted to do more to help his neighbours and friends, but what could he practicably do? He felt helpless,” said Mr Menon.Video: How the Grenfell disaster unfolded “The inquiry needs to set the record straight. The inquiry needs to thank Mr Kebede for his prompt effort that he made on the night to contact the fire brigade, raise the alarm and warn his neighbours.”The inquiry heard that after Mr Kebede noticed smoke was pouring from the back of his Hotpoint fridge freezer he went round to each of his neighbours, banging on the door and shouting “fire, fire, fire” to rouse them and urge them to flee.At the same time he was trying to call the emergency services, though it took several calls before he got through. The inquest also heard how Mr Kebede, who is originally from Ethiopia and had lived in the tower for 25 years, was worried about the refurbishment of the block and the work done around his flat’s windows, from where it is thought the seat of the fire broke through and ignited the flammable exterior cladding through the gaps around the window frames. Only once he had ensured everyone on the fourth floor was aware of the danger did he leave the building, and then only after switching off the main electricity switch in his flat.Rejecting reports in the aftermath of the blaze that Mr Kebede, 45, had managed to pack a suitcase before fleeing, Mr Menon said: “All he had on his person were the clothes he was wearing and the mobile phone with which he was calling 999.”In short, Behailu Kebede did exactly what Grenfell Tower residents who discovered a fire in their flat were told to do by the fire action notice posted by the lifts.” Mr Menon said: “Mr Kebede was not happy and no one he knew in the tower was happy.”There were many problems and complaints. Mr Kebede personally had problems with incorrectly fitted double-glazed windows that left gaps between the frame and the concrete.”Many of his neighbours experienced electrical problems that were “apparently due to power surges” he added. “What he never knew, however, was that a highly flammable fuel had been used to insulate and clad the exterior of the tower as part of the refurbishment.” The resident whose fridge freezer is thought to have caused the devastating fire which engulfed Grenfell Tower has urged the public inquiry to exonerate him from the “racist assumptions” and innuendo that he was to blame.Behailu Kebede said he had been made to suffer “stress, trauma and guilt” after being wrongly held responsible by some for the deaths of 72 people killed in the inferno.In fact the inquiry into the disaster heard on Wednesday that he did all he could to warn his neighbours and make sure they had a chance to escape, before the fire began to spread uncontrollably as a result of the dangerous cladding used in the tower’s refurbishment.But the unfair reaction he suffered for his role in the disaster led to police becoming so concerned about his safety that they offered Mr Kebede and his family witness protection.’Come quick’: Behailu Kebede’s 999 call released Claims made in the aftermath of the fire that unauthorised repairs had been carried out on the fridge freezer, increasing the risk of malfunction and fire, were also rejected. The inquiry heard that such fridge freezer fires are not uncommon, with some 300 taking place in the UK every year, in some cases leading to fatalities.Mr Menon added: “The calamitous events at Grenfell Tower and the subsequent media intrusion have had very serious consequences for Mr Kebede and his family. His parents and children feel unsafe in his home and were forced to move out.”The police were so concerned about Mr Kebede’s safety that they suggested witness protection.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Images released to the inquiry show how Grenfell Tower was engulfed by flamesCredit:PA Speaking on his behalf Rajiv Menon QC told the inquiry: “Mr Kebede hopes that having heard all the evidence the inquiry will make a clear and unequivocal statement that Mr Kebede as absolutely blameless for the outbreak of the fire, its spread and its fatal consequences.”This is vitally important. If the inquiry does not explicitly exonerate Mr Kebede, all these sleazy accusations and hurtful innuendo, all the racist assumptions and ignorance that currently prevail will continue unabated. read more

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