A woman who posed as a Grenfell Tower survivor in order to claim money and hotel accommodation has been convicted of fraud.
Joyce Msokeri, 47, told authorities she had escaped the devastating west London fire last year and her husband had died – but she was actually single and living miles away at the time.
Over the next few weeks, she filled a room at a Hilton hotel to bursting with donations made by well-wishers, and concocted an elaborate ploy to claim insurance on her fictitious partner’s death.
She was found guilty following a trial at Southwark Crown Court of three counts of fraud against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), the Hilton and charities respectively, and a further charge of possessing a false document.
Msokeri was not in court to hear the jury’s verdicts as she remains in hospital after being admitted on Monday for medical tests.
Judge Michael Grieve QC declined to sentence her in her absence, instead fixing a sentencing date for 6 April.
He told jurors, who deliberated on the case for less than two hours, Msokeri’s sentence would likely be via video link at the Old Bailey.
He thanked the jury for their ‘good humour’ throughout the trial in the face of Msokeri’s delaying tactics, including regularly feigning illness and claiming to be disabled.
Two relatives of a victim of the fire, whom Msokeri at one point tried to claim was her husband, were seated in the public gallery as the verdicts were read out.
The defendant, of Ambleside Gardens, Sutton, south London, had repeatedly tried to frustrate justice by faking illnesses – including by using a wheelchair for which she had no medical need.
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She was eventually admitted to hospital for tests towards the end of the case but the trial continued in her absence.
Msokeri made the claims to volunteers at the Westway Centre set up to help survivors after presenting there the day after the fire on the afternoon of June 15.
But in reality she spent the night of the fire at her flat in Ambleside Gardens, Sutton, and on the morning of June 15 spent an hour on the phone to Sky complaining about being charged an extra £1.50 over an unpaid bill.
She would later go on to claim that she had suffered a hoarse voice for more than a week after the tragedy as a result of smoke inhalation, but she could be heard clearly in the recording taken by Sky repeating the words: ‘It’s disgusting, it’s disgusting.’
Her mobile phone had never been used in the area around the Grenfell Tower, cell site data showed, and she even used her own Samsung Galaxy handset with a different sim card inserted to report herself missing while posing as her sister.
The call was made in Malden, south-west London, and just 15 minutes later Msokeri’s freedom pass was used from the local train station.
Msokeri’s story was called in to question when she was unable to give the number of her flat in the tower, despite claiming to have lived there for five months before the fire.
She also claimed to police that her missing husband appeared in footage recovered from the blaze showing the final moments of two men and two women, even though both men had been identified by their own families.
Msokeri was first shown the footage by a volunteer, but later pretended to be seeing it for the first time when she was shown it by police and in response rolled around on the floor wailing.
She was first arrested when the volunteer told police about Msokeri’s lie and she was granted bail on the condition she did not return to the Hilton Hotel.
The defendant was taken in to custody when she returned to the hotel within a day and convinced staff to let her in.
In his closing speech, prosecutor David Jeremy QC said: “What the evidence demonstrates is that she committed these crimes through greed and she got away with it for a certain amount of time through her skill at manipulation.”
The defendant created three different personas for her non-existent husband in a bid to claim compensation, eventually persuading a man with a history of mental health problems to pose as her spouse so she could claim he had miraculously been found weeks after the fire.
Mr Jeremy said Msokeri wanted to ‘double her money’.
The court heard she had filled 10 suitcases with new goods taken from the store set up to help survivors and applied for a number of phones and laptops.
Mr Jeremy said: ‘You would have thought that by July she would have called it a day and stopped, but she wanted to double her money with her claim about her husband.
‘She wanted a bigger flat than would have been given to a single person.’
Seventy-one people died when a fire ravaged the residential building on June 14 last year.