William voices concern ‘closure some way off’ for Grenfell survivors and families
The Prince of Wales met survivors and relatives who lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower tragedy and said he was worried that “closure seems a long way off” for them.
Visiting Queen’s Park Rangers’ stadium in west London, Prince William heard how the football club was still helping the local community nearly six years on from the blaze that killed 72 people.
A public inquiry is still ongoing into the disaster which killed 72 people on June 14, 2017 and a draft report is expected by the end of the year.
Speaking to staff at the QPR Loftus Road Stadium, which is less than a mile from the Tower and became a focal point for the community in the aftermath of the fire, William asked: “Is it harder or easier because everyone knows the story?
“They all know each other very well. Grenfell is a name that lots of people have sadly heard. So, if you have a bereavement like that versus if you have a private bereavement where you have an option to tell people what’s going on - how hard is it to deal with one or the other?
“Because one thing I’m worried about is the community is always together and there are lots of investigations taking place, that closure seems a long way off.
“And we’re always talking about it. And I advocate talking about it. But I do worry sometimes that the bubble is so big for Grenfell. How do they ever have a day when they’re not talking about it?”
Pablo Blackwood, a mental health specialist at QPR, told the Prince that they were working on a resilience strategy and building on the trust in the community which was apparent before the tragedy.
Walking up to the stands to meet survivors and volunteers, William joked that the pitch – which is covered in sand while it undergoes resurfacing work – could be used for a different sport.
“Get the beach volleyball net out,” he said looking down at the diggers working away on the pitch.
Taking a seat in the stands, William spoke to Grenfell survivor Paul Menacer, 29, who escaped the blaze.
Mr Menacer, who also suffered the trauma of losing both his parents when he was 13, presented William with a football shirt from the Grenfell Memorial Cup – an annual football game held to help survivors and the bereaved.
When asked if he might play at next year’s cup match, William laughed and said that he still played football “as part of clearing my head and keeping fit”, but added: “I’m playing against 18-year-olds now and I can’t keep up with them. I’m running around like an old man.”
Karim Mussilhy, 37, who lost his uncle Hesham Rahman, 57, in the blaze, spoke to the Prince in the stands and said afterwards: “I feel like he understands the pain and suffering that this community is going through.”
Afterwards, Mr Menacer said: “The most important thing is that [Prince William] is passionate about getting justice for our community. He is very modest and humble and with someone in his position fighting for us then hopefully one day we will get it.”
William met with famous footballer Les Ferdinand, director of football at Queen’s Park Rangers, Lee Toos, the club’s chief executive and Andy Evans, the head of QPR’s Community Trust.
Ferdinand told William: “I grew up on the Grenfell estate. What these guys did from day one was absolutely phenomenal. I had a message on my phone saying ‘make sure you open the stadium’.”
The QPR mini bus was dispatched to the tower with bags of clothing, blankets and bottles of water.
Mr Evans said: “We got in the mini-bus and got down there and it was chaos. We were there just trying to do what we could.”
Last month an inquiry into the disaster released an update into its investigation, saying that several stages of the have yet to be completed but that it “hopes to complete the drafting of the report before the end of 2023”.
The sixth anniversary on June 14 is being seen as particularly significant by survivors as it marks 72 months since 72 lives were lost in the fire.
It happened just before 1am on the morning of 14 June 2017, when a fire broke out in the kitchen of a fourth floor flat at the 23-storey tower block in North Kensington.
Tower residents were told to abide by a “stay put” strategy by emergency services - a fire policy designed to isolate and control the blaze.
But scores of people were left trapped in the burning building as fire and smoke ripped through the central stairwell.
In the initial aftermath of the fire, Prince William visited Grenfell survivors with the late Queen and last year attended a memorial service to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy.