Friday 18 October 2019

Grenfell Tower fraudster told authorities he suffered 'constant nightmares' after lying that his family had died in the blaze

Sharife Elouahabi pleaded guilty to fraud (Met Police/PA)
Sharife Elouahabi pleaded guilty to fraud (Met Police/PA)

Thomas Hornall and Lizzie Roberts

A fraudster who claimed more than £100,000 meant for Grenfell Tower victims told authorities he suffered "constant nightmares" after lying that his uncle and cousins had died in the blaze.

Sharife Elouahabi falsely said he was staying with relatives at a flat on the 21st floor of the block, where a family of five are known to have died.

The 38-year-old claimed he had been out breaking his fast for Ramadan on the night of the blaze, returning to find his uncle and cousins dead and all his possessions destroyed.

Faouzia and Abdulaziz El-Wahabi, 42 and 52, died alongside their children, Yasin, 20, Huda, 16, and Mehdi, eight.

Details including their names, flat number and floor were soon reported in the media.

Prosecutor Alexandra Felix said Elouahabi came forward soon after and took advantage of the bureaucratic chaos to gain benefits.

Mr El-Wahabi's sister Hanan told the court her surname was common in Morocco and Elouahabi had attempted to use his similar-sounding name to pretend he was part of the family and get financial assistance and accommodation.

She said in a statement: "I lost my brother, his wife and their three children. I lost my home.

"He has tried to take advantage of our pain, I've found this very difficult to deal with. It impacts my daily life."

Seventy-two people died in the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower block in west London on June 14 last year.

So far, 13 people have been convicted in separate cases, with a total of more than £630,000 in bogus claims for accommodation and financial assistance meant for those whose lives had been devastated.

Ms Felix said: "The offence was sophisticated. We submit that this was a manipulative story, plainly false, designed to generate sympathy.

"He claimed to be depressed as a result of what happened. He maintained he suffered from anxiety, had trouble sleeping at night because he had constant nightmares."

Elouahabi's ultimate goal appeared to be gaining permanent housing outside the borough, Ms Felix said, adding that he told support workers being in Kensington "brings everything back".

After hearing speeches at Isleworth Crown Court on Tuesday, judge Robin Johnson said he would pass sentence on Wednesday morning, adding: "It's not my practice to make snap judgments."

Elouahabi, who appeared by videolink from Wandsworth prison, has 28 previous convictions for 54 offences including burglary and common assault, the court heard.

The court has heard he made fraudulent claims for around £103,000 of financial assistance and accommodation between June 23 last year and June 25 this year before his deception unravelled.

Elouahabi, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to fraud at Isleworth Crown Court on November 5 on the first day of his trial.

He admitted making a false representation to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, namely that he had been living in Grenfell Tower and was therefore entitled to housing and financial assistance.

PA Media

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