Camberwell tower block inquest: Father tells of loss of family

11:31 15 January 2013

London Fire Service handout photo of a grab taken from a video of a fire at a block of flats in Camberwell, south London, after a fire ripped through the tower block, killing six people. Picture: London Fire Service/PA Wire

London Fire Service handout photo of a grab taken from a video of a fire at a block of flats in Camberwell, south London, after a fire ripped through the tower block, killing six people. Picture: London Fire Service/PA Wire

A man who lost his wife, son and step-daughter in a tower block fire told an inquest today that “everything that I built, everything that I dreamed of was over in three hours”.

Rafael Cervi was giving evidence at the “super inquest” into the deaths of six people who were killed in the blaze at Lakanal House, Camberwell, in July 2009.

Mr Cervi’s wife Dayana Francisquini, 26, three-year-old son Felipe and step-daughter Thais, six, all died in the tragedy.

He told jurors at the hearing at Lambeth Town Hall: “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.”

Mr Cervi met his wife when her daughter Thais was three months old at a Brazilian club.

He told the inquest that a week later he met “the little one, her name was Thais, and after that I couldn’t leave both of them”.

Mr Cervi continued: “When I saw her I was sure that this was my dream daughter.”

The couple’s son Felipe was “a little bit naughty, doing crazy things”, the jury was told.

Mr Cervi said his wife “loved to dance” and was “never tired” despite looking after two children.

He was working near London Bridge on the day of the fire, and only knew about the blaze when his wife rang him just before 4.30pm.

Mr Cervi called her 10 times, and alerted her father who was closer to Camberwell at the time.

He also tried to reassure his wife over the phone and dialled 999, but said he felt “useless” that he could not help more.

Mr Cervi watched the fire with his father-in-law Fernando Francisquini and initially reassured his wife that the flames did not look as if they were spreading to their flat.

However as things got worse he told a fireman that Dayana said Felipe “was not OK”, and that he thought his son was dying.

Later, he struggled to find out what had happened to his family.

He told the jury: “I was expecting my daughter to be alive, at least one of them. But I couldn’t find them.”

Designer Catherine Hickman, 31, also died in the blaze, along with Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle.

Mrs Udoaka’s husband Mbet told the hearing that he met his wife in Nigeria in 2003, and they got married four years later.

She had a degree in business management but was on maternity leave with 20-day-old Michelle at the time of their deaths.

Mr Udoaka was studying for an MBA and worked part-time as a security guard, and was out at work when the fire started.

He told the inquest: “I have been very traumatised by the loss of both Helen and Michelle. We planned to have two kids as soon as possible. We might have had at least two of them by now.

“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. I’m really hoping that one day I will get to see them again.”

Related articles

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
2 3 4 5 6

Latest London news

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Speaks for itself, really, doesn't it? [Google]

In the run-up to the general election, we’ve decided to tell you what you really want to know about David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett and Nick...Someone based on Google searches.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Police want to speak to this man in connection with an incident that left a man needing 13 stitches [Photograph from British Transport Police]

A man needed 15 stitches after he was hit in the face with a glass thrown at someone else outside the Hamilton Hall pub in Liverpool Street station.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The suspect thrusts a knife through a window into the driver's face (Picture: Met Police)

CCTV of the shocking moment a bus driver was stabbed in the eye with a Stanley knife through a window in Penge has been released by police.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Who doesn't like a good game of pass the parcel?

Any attempt to make boring commutes across London more fun is to be admired - and when it involves a game of pass the parcel then that’s even better.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Ayesha Ali

A mum and her lover have this morning been found guilty of the manslaughter of her eight-year-old daughter – but cleared of murder.

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

Filmmaker spent two years making a film on the horrific rape and killing of medical student Jyoti Singh.

Read more

Albert Square will welcome the veteran actress for a guest appearance.

Read more

Wax is being sculpted into the shape of some famous sci-fi characters.

Read more

Promoted content

A look at one of our previous Design Fairs

Chelsea Old Town Hall will be the venue for the renowned Desire Fair from 6-8 March 2015. This stunning mixed media jewellery and silversmithing event where visitors can purchase direct from contemporary designer makers selected from the best in the UK is an event not to be missed.

(Not guaranteed)

Mothers Day is fast approaching, so we’ve rounded up some unusual and beautiful gifts for you to dazzle the most important woman in your life come March 15th.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

A man who was dubbed a ‘hot criminal’ has won a modelling contract.

Andrew Mitchell’s wallet is £80,000 lighter today, and his political reputation is in tatters.

His girlfriend has been charged with intending to pervert the course of justice.

Quirky London