Grenfell: ‘Selfless’ resident died after checking on another family during fire

Danny Friedman QC gave presentations to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry relating to Khadija Khalloufi, who died in the fire aged 52.

19 July 2022

A “selfless” Grenfell Tower resident died after risking her life to check on another family who had escaped minutes before, an inquiry heard.

Khadija Khalloufi, then 52, had been fleeing from the 17th floor with her husband, Sabah Abdullah, when she retreated on the 11th floor to knock on the door of a mother she was close with.

Born in Mohammedia, Morocco, Ms Khalloufi studied her university degree in Casablanca before moving to Holland and later London.

She met Mr Abdullah, her husband of 27 years, while working at a centre assisting immigrants to integrate through learning, after struggling to fit in herself when she first arrived in the capital.

Tower block fire in London
Khadija Khalloufi, who died in the Grenfell Tower fire (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

The couple married in the 1990s and had lived in flat 143 of Grenfell Tower since then.

Ms Khalloufi has been described as “irreplaceable” to her husband, as “the apple of her mother’s eye”, and “like a second mother” to her six younger siblings.

She was also remembered by neighbours as someone who “selflessly cared for those around her” and as “beautiful, friendly and kind”.

Her story was told by Danny Friedman QC at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on Tuesday, following a trigger warning for disturbing content.

Mr Friedman said that CCTV footage showed Ms Khalloufi carrying a large DKNY bag and entering the North Kensington tower at around 4pm on June 13, 2017.

Nine hours later, she was among those fleeing the burning building, initially with her husband, before she went to check on her friend, Mouna El Ogbani – who had escaped with her husband Youssef Khalloud and their three children.

Tower block fire in London
Khadija Khalloufi (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

Mr Friedman told the inquiry: “Although it cannot be known for sure, it appears that Khadija entered floor 11 in order to ensure that the Moroccan family who lived at flat 85 had safely left the building.

“Khadija and Mouna were friends, and as you have heard, it would have been just like Khadija to help her friends in this way.

“However, Mouna’s family had left their flat just a few minutes earlier.”

Meanwhile, on the floor below, a faulty door failed to close behind another fleeing family, and “the communal lobby rapidly filled with dense, deadly, toxic fumes from the fire”, Mr Friedman said.

After checking for her friend, Ms Khalloufi entered a lift containing four other residents – but it stopped “unexpectedly” on floor 10, letting in the smoke.

Mr Friedman said it was later found that the lift did not meet safety requirements.

Tower block fire in London
Khadija Khalloufi (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

He said: “The Chair has found in his Phase 1 report that crew managers attempted unsuccessfully to use a drop key to bring the Grenfell lifts under the firefighters’ exclusive control, leaving residents who used the lift exposed to the fatal risk of being taken to the floor affected by fire.

“Moreover, the lift did not meet the technical standards of firefighting lifts which may have avoided the problem.

“The inquiry’s findings of reasons and responsibility for this are important to the circumstances of the death of Khadija Khalloufi, as they are to others.”

“Eventually the lift doors closed and the lift descended to the ground floor.

Mr Friedman said the doors closed after around 25 seconds, but when they reopened on the ground floor, CCTV showed “black smoke billowing from the lift”.

He said footage also showed Ms Khalloufi being carried into the foyer by firefighters at around 2.30am, with the large DKNY bag she had been seen wearing the day before attached to her arm.

Despite resuscitation efforts by paramedics, Ms Khalloufi was pronounced dead at 2.41am.

Tower block fire in London
Khadija Khalloufi (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

Tributes have poured in for the resident, and her husband previously shared a video he had made in her memory.

Speaking about this, Mr Friedman said: “At the end of his video for his commemoration of his beloved and loving wife, Sabah Abdullah told the chair that when Khadija died: ‘I lost a part of me’.

“His face on the video of a proud but openly affectionate man is powerful even if it is gentle.

“Khadija’s death is an unbearable loss to her husband, as it was to her wider family and friends.

“Khadija was her mother’s soulmate, confidante and adviser.

“For her sisters and brothers, Khadija was their second mother who they all loved and respected.

“Khadjia cared for her friends, even to the point of risking her life.

“Like so many others in the tower that night, she did not truly realise how dangerous the conditions were, until it was too late.”

The inquiry continues.

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