A woman accused of posing as a victim of the Grenfell fire to claim thousands of pounds of goods and accommodation as well as cash handouts is “greedy” and “manipulative”, a court has heard.
Joyce Msokeri, 47, allegedly filled a room at the Hilton Hotel with goods intended to help the victims after claiming to have lost her home and her husband in the disaster.
She made the claims to volunteers at the Westway Centre, set up to help survivors, after she arrived the day after the fire on the afternoon of June 15, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Prosecutors claim 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 ranting about being charged an extra £1.50 over an unpaid bill.
Her mobile phone had never been used in the area around Grenfell Tower, cell site data showed, and she even used her own handset with a different sim card to report herself missing while posing as her sister, jurors were told.
Msokeri’s story was called into 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.
In his closing speech, prosecutor David Jeremy QC said: “When you look at the evidence in this case the prosecution suggest that the evidence doesn’t just prove that Ms Msokeri is guilty, the evidence proves that she is guilty over and over again.
“The evidence, if you really think about it, explains who she is, it reveals her character,” he said.
“It therefore explains not just that she committed these crimes, it explains how and why she committed these crimes.
“I must point out that 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, it is claimed, eventually persuading a man with a history of mental health problems to pose as her spouse so she could claim he had been found weeks after the fire.
Mr Jeremy said Msokeri wanted to “double her money”.
“She had successfully looted the property store – the open store set up for the victims to take what they needed,” he said.
“She has filled 10 suitcases and you know of her predilection for brand-new goods with labels still on – effectively stolen property.
“She had signed up for every laptop and phone going, not to mention a personal driver put at her disposal.
“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.”
Mr Jeremy said there had been such an outpouring of public sympathy and charity for the victims of the fire that no one could bring themselves to believe that her story could be false and challenge her, even when she repeatedly changed her account.
He said she had set out “to make the most” of the charity and support offered to survivors.
Msokeri’s trial was dogged by delays on days when she refused to attend court.
The court heard that on the days she did attend, she arrived in a wheelchair despite having no medical need for one.
On Tuesday, jurors were told that Msokeri had been admitted to hospital but the trial would go ahead in her absence.
She denies three counts of fraud against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), the Hilton and charities, and a further charge of possessing a false document.
The jury is due to be sent out to consider its verdict on Wednesday.
Susan Meek, for Msokeri, said her client could only be found guilty of dishonesty if her story was a deliberate lie.
“If she truly believed she’d been a victim of the fire, if that belief is a truly held one, then she’s not acting dishonestly,” she said.
“If she truly believes it, then regardless of the other evidence she’s entitled to be found not guilty.”