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Nigerian man convicted for falsely claiming sister died in Grenfell fire disaster

A Nigerian father of five, Abolaji Onafuye who claimed he saw terrified victims of the fire burning to death when he was 12 miles away is facing jail.

Onafuye, 54, claimed Zainab Deen, 32, who perished in the blaze was his sister and he was sharing a flat with her.

He was put up at one of London’s top hotels and racked up a total bill of more than £35,000.

Onafuye later admitted he was not staying at the tower block and said he must have been ‘hallucinating’ when he claimed he was.

He then said he was still due compensation because he had seen people screaming for help in the burning building.

But his cell site evidence from his phone showed he was nowhere near he scene.

Local taxpayers in Kensington and Chelsea footed the £23,500 bill for Onafuye’s stay at the four-star Grosvenor Hotel.

Onafuye received another £13,000 in living costs after he was moved to a flat in an area of Hammersmith where two bedroom apartments can cost up to £500,000.

Abolaji Onafuye claimed Zainab Deen and her son Jeremiah, who died in the fire, were his sister and nephew

Giving evidence he claimed he was hallucinating when he told police he lived there.

‘I was temporarily insane because I was fasting when I was arrested,’ he said.

But a jury at Isleworth Crown Court convicted Onafuye of two counts of fraud by false representation between 21 June last year and 7 June this year.

Onafuye attended the Westway support centre on June 21 last year and told volunteer, Rica Smirk he was staying in Flat 84.

He filled out a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea assessment form with the help of the volunteer.

Onafuye said Ms Deen was his sister and her two year old son Jeremiah was his nephew.

Abolaji Onafuye, 54, claimed Zainab Deen, 32, who perished in the blaze was his sister and he was sharing a Flat 84 with her

But when he was arrested for fraud he told police: ‘When I was saying I lived in Grenfell Tower in my police interview I was not in the right frame of mind. It was a hallucination.’

Onafuye said the council officers must have incorrectly filled in the forms he handed in.

In court he insisted the cell site evidence which showed he was nowhere near the flats must have been incorrect.

‘I am sorry for the families it happened but something happened to me too,’ he said.

‘I suffered mental trauma. I suffered. Why do you think that I hadn’t finished my university course. I suffered a depressive collapse.’

Asked whether he had seen a doctor about this, Onafuye replied ‘No.’

The court also heard how Onafuye had registered his NatWest bank account to the address.

But he blamed a mistake by the bank because ‘there was no motive, not rationale to do this.’

Onafuye, from Hammersmith, had denied two counts of fraud by false representation between 21 June last year and 7 June this year.

He will be sentenced on date to be fixed.

Michael Phillips, of the CPS, said: ‘Abolaji Onafuye had no connections to the Grenfell Tower tragedy but saw an opportunity to benefit himself, both financially and with accommodation.

‘Our prosecution was able to prove he had repeatedly and intentionally lied and that his post-arrest story that it had all been an innocent mistake was just an attempt to escape the consequences of his cruel deception.’

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