UK & World News
Tower Block Fire: Husbands Describe Their Grief
Two men who lost their families in a horrific tower block fire have been telling of their phone conversations with their wives in the flat where they were sheltering.
It also emerged that another of the six victims, fashion designer Catherine Hickman, had asked previously asked why there were no diagrams showing where the fire exits were.
Rafael Cervi and Mbet Udoaka were both at work when the fire broke out at Lakanal House, Camberwell, south east London, on July 3, 2009.
Jurors at the "super inquest" at Lambeth Town Hall heard that Mr Cervi's wife Dayana Francisquini, 26, his step-daughter Thais, six, and his son Felipe, three, all died in the blaze.
Dayana's father Fernando Francisquini said he could see his daughter through the window moving curtains and a mattress to keep out the smoke.
Mr Cervi told the jury: "I lost my entire family, my wife and a couple of kids that I had. Everything that I built, everything that I dreamed of was over in three hours."
On the day of the blaze, he rang his wife 10 times, trying to reassure her. He also called 999, and alerted her father who lived within walking distance of the flat.
Mr Francisquini said they pleaded with firefighters to rescue the family.
"Rafael and I were begging them to go and help them as the fire was in the flat next to hers," he said.
Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle also died in the blaze, along with Miss Hickman, 31.
Mrs Udoaka's husband Mbet said: "My life will never be the same again, I can never get over these deaths, over the death of my beautiful Helen and my lovely Michelle."
Mrs Udoaka, who was on maternity leave at the time, had moved to the UK in 2007 from Nigeria.
Counsel to the inquest James Maxwell-Scott read parts of a statement made by Mr Udoaka after the fire, recalling the last conversation he had with his wife.
The statement said: "The last words she said to me were that the smoke was too much, she couldn't bear it any more, Michelle our daughter was going to heaven."
Miss Hickman's boyfriend of six years, Mark Bailey, said she had asked him where the fire exits were in the block, and why there were no diagrams to show residents where to go.
Two weeks before the blaze, he had asked a fireman in a park whether they could have a home visit to get advice but he replied it was "nothing to do with him", the inquest heard.
Mr Bailey, who was in New York at the time of the fire, flew back to be with Miss Hickman's family in the New Forest.
They were only informed she had died three or four days after the blaze.
"During that time I was feeling indescribable," Mr Bailey said. "I was overwhelmed by grief and I would wake up every night screaming and crying.
"I would wake up and think that Catherine was next to me, and then realise what had happened."
The inquest was adjourned until Wednesday.