A shameless conwoman who falsely claimed her husband had died in the Grenfell Tower disaster so she could receive handouts and a free stay at the Hilton is facing years behind bars today.
Joyce Msokeri, 47, spun a web of lies and spent weeks posing as a survivor of the inferno so she could scoop up around £10,000-worth of clothes, electrical goods, food, and cash gifts.
The fraudster took so many handouts that her hotel room – given to her for free after she pretended to have lost her home – was “full to bursting” and she had to store suitcases of freebies with the concierge.
Charities, well-wishers, and Kensington and Chelsea council were all duped by Msokeri, who claimed her husband had been lost in the fire when he heroically dashed to try to help a neighbour’s children.
Hundreds attend candlelit vigil for Grenfell Tower victimsHowever, her story began to unravel when she claimed to live in a flat that did not exist, and gave differing versions of her tale of woe.
Fraud investigators eventually discovered Msokeri actually lived miles away, in Sutton, south London, and had been on the phone to Sky ranting about her television reception just hours before coming forward as a survivor.
In a desperate bid to maintain her lies, Msokeri first claimed she had seen her husband in TV footage of the fire, then bamboozled a man with mental health problems into posing as her husband and pretending he had been in hospital the whole time.
Inside Grenfell Tower
However, prosecutor David Jeremy QC told Southwark crown court that Msokeri, driven by “greed”, was a skilled manipulator of charity workers who could not believe anyone would lie about being a Grenfell survivor.
A jury found Msokeri guilty this afternoon of three charges of fraud and one count of possessing a false driving licence.
Msokeri lied about living on the 17th floor of the tower (PA)Msokeri was not in court for the verdicts, and will be sentenced by Judge Michael Grieve QC on April 6.
The fraudster, who sat in a wheelchair by choice during her trial, was branded a “malingerer” after repeatedly delaying the criminal case with fake illness claims.
She refused to enter a plea to the charges, claiming she did not understand the word “guilty”, and told prison guards she was unable to swallow the medication she is on.
Msokeri was eventually admitted to hospital, just as she was due to give evidence, complaining of painful sores on her backside from sitting in the wheelchair for too long. As a result, jurors never heard her defence to the fraud claims.
71 people were killed in the disaster (Nigel Howard)Msokeri came forward seeking help the day after 71 people died in the Grenfell Tower inferno in June last year, having already phoned the police to report herself missing while posing as her sister.
She went to the Westway Sports Centre, close to the towerblock, on June 15, and was “showered” with gifts and offers of help after claiming that her husband as well as her sister in law were missing.
Meghan Hessian, the night manager at the centre, said there were no lists of Grenfell Tower residents, so victims had to be trusted that they were telling the truth.
“I just couldn’t imagine somebody faking this well”, she said of Msokeri, who appeared “weepy” and showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. “She seemed totally legitimate.”
Grenfell Tower aftermath – In pictures
Suspicions began to emerge when Msokeri claimed to live in flat 583, despite there only being 207 homes in the tower. She told aid workers she lived on the 17th floor but could not remember the exact number because she had only moved in in February.
Msokeri was given a paid-for two bedroom room at the Hilton in Holland Park, use of a driver, and the pick of clothes, food and electronic goods which had been donated as part of the relief effort. She also received around £5000 in cash handouts.
Over the course of a few weeks, Msokeri helped herself to ten suitcases worth of possessions, feeding her desires for designer clothes and the latest laptops and phones.
She even sacked a key worker assigned to help when she refused to help secure Msokeri a fourth mobile phone.
When suspicion began to fall on the fraudster, she befriended a susceptible well-wisher who would back her story that she had seen her husband on TV footage of the fire.
When that plan failed, Msokeri tried to pretend that her husband had been found alive and well in hospital, hoping that she might be able to land a two-bedroom flat for free.
“There is no doubt that she was helped in getting away with it for so long by the fact that the people around her were so trusting”, said Mr Jeremy.
“No one could really bring themselves to believe that someone would use the devastation caused by the Grenfell fire to commit fraud in order to obtain cash and benefits.
Msokeri, from Sutton, south London, denies all the charges against her.