A woman who claims to be a Grenfell survivor has been jailed after pretending to be dead in a bid to dodge punishment for driving offences. Zoe Bernard, 38, gave a false name when she was caught driving carelessly while banned and without insurance – but when her real name was discovered she asked for a death certificate to try to convince the police that she was dead.
She was eventually convicted of the driving cases in December last year, arguing unsuccessfully that it was not her driving, but a male passenger. Southwark Crown Court heard she had a catalog of previous convictions, including drunk driving, disqualified driving, battery and assault on police officers.
Now she has been imprisoned for eight months for perverting the course of justice. Sentencing judge Martin Beddoe said Bernard, from Notting Hill, west London, had a habit of ‘deploying and exaggerating’ traumatic experiences in his past to avoid responsibility for offenses .
Bernard’s uncle was said to have died in the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2017 and she also claims to have been a resident at the time. His uncle is believed to be Raymond ‘Moses’ Bernard, who lived in the tower for over 30 years and died alongside seven other people in his flat.
Her mother, Bernadette, gave evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry about how her daughter ‘rushed’ to the tower on the night of the fire and witnessed the blaze. Bernard’s lawyers initially said his eldest daughter died in a car accident, but after a brief adjournment they corrected to say Bernard claimed she also died in the Grenfell fire.
In jailing Bernard, Judge Beddoe said: ‘I have no doubt that some of the traumatic experiences are genuine, but not necessarily all of them. I think you deploy them with convenience, then misuse them and overdo them to avoid liability.
The court heard Bernard failed to stop when police tried to arrest him in his BMW Kilburn, west London, for careless driving in November 2020. When arrested, she gave her name of “Kyesha Bernard”, but when she was taken to the police station, it was established. through address and vehicle registration searches, she was Zoe Bernard.
Prosecutor Gregor McKinley said: “Investigator PC Hockton then wrote to Ms Bernard asking her to report to the police station for a voluntary interview.”
He says he was contacted several times between December 15, 2020 and January 27, 2021 by someone calling themselves Shanice Bernard and claiming to be Zoe Bernard’s sister.
She said Zoe had been sick and she was dead.
Margo Munro Kerr, defending, told the court she had two documents from a team that supports Grenfell victims and their families showing Bernard was first referred in 2017 and again in October 2021. A A psychiatrist’s report on Bernard was also handed over to the court but the doctor said he was unable to diagnose Bernard with post-traumatic stress disorder as he did not have access to all of his records medical.
Ms Munro Kerr said: ‘In the psychiatrist’s report it is stated that Ms Bernard felt suicidal before and was planning her death so she applied for a death certificate.’ Judge Beddoe said: “I don’t accept that for a minute. It’s complete nonsense.