Denis Murphy: Final moments of Irish Grenfell Tower victim revealed in damning exposé
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Denis Murphy: Final moments of Irish Grenfell Tower victim revealed in damning exposé

A DAMNING report into the Grenfell Tower inferno by journalist Andrew O'Hagan has revealed the tragic final moments of Irish victim Denis Murphy.

The 30,000-word exposé claims the London Fire Brigade, Tony Blair and cladding firms are responsible for the tragedy.

It also blasts the then housing minister Sajid Javid for failing in his promise to rehouse survivors, as well as Channel 4 News' Jon Snow for whipping up a frenzy by pressing the issue of gentrification while the 24-storey block was still smouldering.

But the report says Kensington and Chelsea's council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned in the wake of the blaze, was blameless.

A total of 72 people were killed when fire broke out at the west London tower on June 14, last year. All of the victims lived above the 10th floor.

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Denis

Denis Murphy, 56, a devoted Chelsea FC fan with roots in Limerick, lived on the 14th floor of Grenfell Tower.

The second-generation Irishman was asleep when emergency services received the first report of a fire at the building 12.54am.

He was awake by 1.20am. In less than half an hour, flames had travelled diagonally up the building from the fourth floor to the 14th - Mr Murphy's floor - and were spreading round the north face.

In Flat 111, the father-of-one dialed 999 and was told to stay inside his flat and that firefighters would soon reach him.

In these early minutes of the blaze, many could have made for the stairs had they received different instructions. But he listened.

Ten minutes later at 1.30am, Mr Murphy called his brother and left a message saying there was "black smoke everywhere".

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Errors

The tall ladders needed to rescue people high up in the tower were not readily available in London and had only just arrived.

Despite the speed with which the fire spread, it hadn't yet taken hold on all sides of the tower. Yet no residents would be rescued by being taken down ladders on the temporarily safe sides of Grenfell Tower.

And the London Fire Brigade's ‘Stay Put’ policy meant that a full evacuation of the building would not be ordered until around 2 hours after the inferno began.

Neighbours alerted neighbours when and where they could. But few if any residents were unaware of the unfolding tragedy by 1.30am.

A 999 operator told Zainab Deen, who lived across the landing from Denis Murphy on the 14th floor, that the safest option was to stay inside. She was advised to put wet towels along the bottom of the doors and to open windows if she could, "to increase ventilation".

Life and death 

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Also on the 14th floor was construction worker Oluwaseun ‘Ollie’ Talabi, his girlfriend Nida, and their daughter Keziah. After an unsuccessful attempt to abseil down the side of the building using tied-together bedsheets, the family were met by a group of firefighters coming into their flat.

They had four neighbours with them, including Zainab Deen and her son Jeremiah from across the landing. Denis Murphy was not among them.

That part of the 14th floor was blazing and the ceiling was falling in, so the firefighters quickly ushered residents into the Talabis’ flat.

But Ollie Talabi wasn't a fan of the idea. He grabbed his girlfriend and his child, one in each hand, and they ran for the smoke-filled stairs.

The Talabis made it out alive. They survived because they did not listen to the London Fire Brigade.

Dennis Murphy, who had listened, was back on the phone to the emergency services. He told them he could not breathe. The operator kept him on the line for some time, telling him to stay in his flat and asking him where he was.

But eventually the smoke overcame the Irishman and he fell silent. No one ever heard from Denis Murphy again. It was almost 2am.

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By the time firefighters eventually dampened the flames 24 hours later, Zainab and Jermiah Deen, along with everyone else who took cover in Ollie Talabi's flat, were among 72 fatalities - ranging in age from an unborn baby to an 84-year-old grandmother.

Firefighters rescued 65 people from the building and reached all 24 floors. None of them died.

Remembered

During seven harrowing days of commemorations at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, which concluded this week, relatives of the victims publically paid tribute to their loved-ones.

Denis Murphy was described as the “lynchpin” of his family whose “cheeky smile” was hard to forget.

His sister Anne-Marie recalled during her tribute how Mr Murphy had once joined the Unite bus union to the bewilderment of his family, as he could not drive a car, “let alone a bus”.

“The reason is that he wanted to be a part of the campaign to make his voice and the voice of the community in Grenfell Tower heard," she said.

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Mr Murphy’s remains were recovered from his flat on the 14th floor before being identified by dental records and buried last year.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, continues in London this week.