The family of a man who died alongside seven others in his top floor flat in the Grenfell Tower fire have described him as someone who ‘loved without expecting anything in return’ and whose death has caused ‘untold heartache and anger’.
Raymond Herbert Bernard – known to many as ‘Moses’, lived in Flat 201 in the tower block for more than 30 years.
The 63-year-old died alongside seven others in his flat on June 14, 2017. Their remains were found on Raymond’s bed, whilst he was found resting beside the bed on the floor.
Speaking about her brother at the inquiry, Sheramin Bernadette Bernard said his death had ‘left a deep, deep void’ in both her and her family’s life, and that there can be ‘no justice’ for him.
His son, Julian, described him as ‘the greatest man on this planet, in many different ways’.
Ms Bernard said she believed the position he and others in his flat were found in following the fire suggested he’d ‘given comfort to the other residents’ as the blaze raged.
“My brother had a saying, he always said ‘Life is too short, try to love those around you, be happy and enjoy the time we have on earth, as life as we know it, can be snatched at any time’, she said.
“Ray always had a smile on his face. He knew how to love without expecting anything in return.”
Family has suffered ‘untold heartache’ which ‘no amount of consoling will ease’
Ms Bernard told how her family has been left tormented by seeing the events unfold in front of their eyes, and how they have struggled to come to terms with what happened since.
“The loss of Ray has caused me, my family, and his friends untold heartache and anger and has left a deep, deep void in me and my family’s life,” she said.
“When my daughter Zoe heard about the fire on that awful night, she raced to Grenfell Tower desperately searching for her uncle. Helpless and distraught she stood outside the tower all night until the early hours of the morning, watching that demonic inferno engulf the tower and quickly realising her uncle, men, women and children were trapped, perishing minute by minute, hour by hour.
“Then finally watching the fire engulf her uncle’s flat, feeling helpless, standing beside a close friend of my beloved brother, weeping, not knowing what to do.
“You cannot begin to know or understand the torment and distress this has caused my daughter. My younger daughter, Sarah-Jayne, watching her Uncle Ray’s flat in flames, our mother, aged 85, cries constantly thinking how her son burned to death and how he could not be saved. No amount of consoling will ease her pain and suffering.
“Ray was snatched from me and my family in the fire. It has been difficult to come to terms with the loss of my brother. I don’t know how I am going to manage in the knowledge that he, my rock, my protector, is no longer with me.
“There are times when I feel Ray is with me in the physical form; it’s as though I can feel his spiritual presence and, at times I can almost touch him. I have to draw on my belief that he will always be with me spiritually.”
Life in UK brought success in work, friends, family and love
Born in a small village in Penal, Trinidad, West Indies on May 22, 1954, Raymond was one of seven children and moved to the UK with his parents in 1969.
At the age of 16 he became an electrical engineer, completing his apprenticeship with the House of Lords. He was offered a full time position within the complex which serviced both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, something his sister said made Ray feel like he had ‘made it in life’, proving all the doubters in Trinidad wrong.
He married and had two daughters and a son and worked as a ‘sound man’, travelling from venue to venue to DJ.
In or about 1981, he was head-hunted and offered a job opportunity to return to Trinidad, but whilst the rest of the family decided to return, Bernard and Sheramin made the decision to stay, leaving them as the only siblings in the UK.
Sheramin told how over the past 20 years her brother had a long-term relationship with his partner Karen, who she said played a pivotal role in his life. She said they ‘loved each other with a passion, sharing almost every aspect of life together.’
Together they shared a dog named Marley who sadly also perished in the fire.
“The loss of Raymond and Marley for Karen has been devastating,” she said.
Kind, gentle and compassionate, ‘Moses’ was a ‘hero’ to his family
Sheramin spoke about how Ray was affectionately known as Moses in the surrounding areas and those who lived at Grenfell Tower.
“He was my modern day ‘Moses’, my hero,” she said.
“Our entire family were so proud of him. He was a peaceful loving man, truly loved by all his friends and family, and all those who came into contact with him, even those who only knew him for a short period only had good things to say about him. It is for all these reasons that I know my brother was truly a blessed man and that he will eventually be resting in peace.
“If you were to ask anyone who knew him and who lived in Grenfell Tower or the surrounding area, they would tell you, that Ray was a kind, gentle, compassionate man, a leader, a counsellor and so much more.
“To me, he was my Ray. A brother that I admired for his strength, his kindness, his patience and above all his belief that good would always prevail over evil. My brother, was not only my elder sibling, he was my friend, my rock, someone who helped to shape my outlook on life, my go to person if I needed help, or advice in times of trouble.
“My brother and I did not see each other every day, every week or every month, we did not need to, we shared a deep love, respect and understanding for each other coupled with an unbreakable bond. My brother was always beside me.
“He helped me raise my children; if I asked him to look after the kids, he would always make himself available and my children and grandchildren loved their uncle Ray.
“Death should have taken my brother naturally, he should not have been killed in this way, he did not deserve to die by suffocation, poisoning and ultimately burned till his remains are no more than 30 per cent of who he was, our Moses, our hero.
“Sadly, where there is no justice there will be no peace. I will never forget, I will never forgive.”
Ray’s son, Julian, said: “The thought of never seeing my beloved Dad anymore is heart-breaking.
“I love my dad very much, he was a special individual, in my eyes he was the greatest man that I ever saw on this planet in many different ways. He was an admirable man, a respected brother, a valued uncle, son, father, grandfather and friend.
“My dad was a people’s person, could be anyone’s best friend because of his kindness and understanding.
“If he could help you out in any way, he would do so no matter who you were. His happiness not only stemmed from having loved ones around him but for the musical pleasures that he enjoyed as a teen through to his adult years. My memories of my dad will live on forever in my heart.”
Solicitor says family memories reflect huge importance of Grenfell Inquiry
Cyrilia Davies Knight, who is representing Raymond’s family, said they, and the other families who lost loved ones and have spoken about them over the past seven days, have played a ‘crucial’ role in the inquiry, in the most difficult of circumstances.
“The pen portraits of each person who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire have reflected the huge human loss of this tragedy and have reminded us all why we are here.
“Not only were 72 lives tragically lost, but the lives of those left behind were forever changed. The words of each and every family member that have been heard have been heart-breaking and so powerful.
“There must be answers as to why and how this happened to ensure we never see a repeat of such a tragic loss of life.”