There are many values in the ‘Unify to survive’ chants of XR and its family of peaceful protesters that occupied the streets around the Palace of Westminster, and other government departments for four days in April 2023.
Circa 60,000 attended the Big One March; walking the talk, standing up for their beliefs, and standing against those causing harm to our planet and humanity.
One child’s story embodied so many of those values, one could be forgiven for wondering why his face and story was not central to the cocktail of anger, shock, pain, courage, and hope coursing through every vein and sinew of the event.
The headlines spoke of Climate Change, social justice, government breaking its climate change laws, an environment where our children could live and play, Equitable society, anti-racism, flooding, weather, land use, public protection, love and compassion, protecting the natural environment and keeping it stable, people and citizen assemblies, etc.
There were even people under the banner of ‘Ecocide’, discussing chemicals, and treating people with decency. We heard loud cries of ‘political criminals’, decrying governments for their failure to address climate crisis issues, malfeasance in office, and being in the pockets of big business.
We heard from Bishops, religious groups, doctors, scientists, activists, farmers, TV personalities, charity leaders, members of the public, people representing first nation communities, people in low income countries already being displaced by climate change.
The Big One speakers called out members of the XR family whose head people did not show, WWF, National Trust, Friends of the Earth, David Attenborough! Though it is easy to criticise, a vital element of the movement is the speaking of truth to power, and calling things out. So, we reach out to XR leaders to follow their hearts, and highlight Zane’s death, not as what could happen in the UK, but as what has happened, and could happen to anyone, unless we address the issues.
I hear people ask, surely there cannot be a child that embodies everything XR and their family of activists fight for. If it were true surely all the campaigns would be talking about such a child, it’s just the way the British media and public respond!
The beautiful 7-year-old child whose story is silent is Zane Gbangbola. Zane was a little eco warrior killed in Surrey near London during the first storms attributed by a UK prime Minister to Climate Change in February 2014. To be clear, Zane is the first climate related death in the UK!!!!
The story of little seven-year-old Zane, is of a child, poisoned in his bed when floodwater entered his basement, infusing his Victorian home, with deadly invisible, odourless, Hydrogen Cyanide gas, detected multiple times, by fire service specialist HAZMAT. It is indicated the floodwater acted as a pathway between source and receptors; that were killed and injured. A government department report in 2010 states there is an ‘an unacceptable risk’ of migrating landfill gases, the consequences are serious injury and death. Zane’s death was preventable, there were years of forewarning.
What kind of a country do we live in where there is no investigation into the gassing, of a neighbourhood, by a chemical weapon of mass destruction (WMD) nerve agent, the gas that killed millions in WWII gas chambers?
Some people must look back to that fatal day in 2014, and think it beyond upsetting a child’s home could be infused with toxic gases, next door to land exploited for profit by opencast gravel extraction, and filled with unregulated waste. Then, that child die, justice be called for and denied, and the curiosity of NGO researchers and investigators, not be peaked. One would hope the campaign groups would unite, and call for proper investigations, as done in progressive countries, to protect and save the lives of their citizens.
The failure to properly investigate what happened to Zane, in what elected members of Zane’s Borough council labelled a ‘cover up’, has systematically stripped this little boy of his human rights to the
truth, which has resulted in TruthAboutZane (TAZ), the campaign for answers, ref
People need to wake up to the abuse, and injustice, staring them in the face and look at this child, what happened, and the risks to the 80% of people in the UK the BMJ state live within 2km of landfill. Zane’s father was rendered unconscious in cardiac arrest in the same incident; his diagnosis is Paraplegia due to Hydrogen Cyanide poisoning.
And now a bombshell, which probably seems like common sense, ‘the quality of land where we live, affects the health of human beings on and around it’, the award winning BBC Radio file on Four, in their programme ‘What Lies Beneath’, made this very clear.
The fact that landfill can be dangerous, is a truth in plain sight, yet government and those elected to protect the public refuse to act, deny the truth, deny the scientific and medical evidence, use false narratives, refuse to listen to and protect the people.
The four day festival of ‘The Big one’ hailed the voice and inclusion obtained from citizen assemblies as a mandate to operate; the governance gateway to determine where activism is needed. It was made clear activist groups hold ‘People assemblies’ which determine their purpose and values for action. Whilst ‘Citizen assemblies’ determine the national and international goals and targets to be prioritised.
Concretely we have established the ‘Citizens’ position for Zane ; over 117,000 people signed his petition, and growing. To this end we humbly call upon the ‘People’ in the 200 activist groups represented at ‘The Big One’ to hear the ‘Citizens’ and stand up for a little boy killed in horrendous climate change abusive circumstances. Anyone with children would look at them, and hate what happened to Zane, to happen to any child!
Whilst the UN points to environmental protection being a massive problem, we should ask ourselves what kind of a world are we handing on to our children? The answer should include how we fought for truth for children like Zane and Ella.
This is not about criticising anyone but it’s important that our big campaigning organisations, that complain of atrophy towards their purpose, do not display such behaviours to just causes like Zane’s. TruthAboutZane consisting of Zane’s parents fighting for their son, would love to hear from you, and what support and actions you can provide.
There are many injustices and one struggle, solidarity to all the climate and social justice campaigns. ‘Unite to survive and win’. Extinction Rebellion and the family must not be complicit keeping Zane’s story in the dark. Help us shine the light of truth on the wrongs.
Rest In Peace Zane Gbangbola, 2006 to 2014
DEAR PRIME MINISTER - JUSTICE FOR ZANE
The most toxic cover up of them all
Wednesday 8 February 2023
15.30 at 10 Downing Street
Today, on the ninth anniversary of the death of their 7-year-old son, Zane, Kye and Nicole Gbangbola, Zane’s Mummy and Daddy, have handed in a letter to Rishi Sunak, in the wake of further non-action from him and his government. Natalie Bennett, Green Party Peer, who has been supporting the campaign for the Truth About Zane, joined them outside No 10.
On 21st October last year, which would have been Zane’s 16th birthday, Kye and Nicole, alongside Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, handed in a petition to No 10, signed by over 117,000 people, calling for an Independent Panel Inquiry into Zane’s death.
Kye, Nicole, Matt Wrack and their thousands of supporters, including Andy Burnham and Sir Keir Starmer, had hoped for a positive response – that the government would at last do the right thing and give Zane the justice he deserves. Instead, Kye and Nicole have not even received an acknowledgement of their petition. Neither has Rishi Sunak replied to a letter they addressed to him, personally.
So, on this most painful of days, the anniversary of their son’s death, Kye and Nicole are trying again…Below is the full text of the letter to Rishi Sunak that they handed in today.
Dear Rishi Sunak,
Today is the ninth anniversary of the death of Zane Gbangbola, our beloved son, who was killed during the terrible River Thames flooding, in Chertsey, in 2014.
Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) was detected in our riverside home by the Surrey Fire Service’s HAZMAT team on the 8th February 2014, the night Zane died, not once, but on three separate sweeps of our house. The HCN was detected at very high levels, as stated in Public Health England’s National Incidents Recording System.
It was known by the council that a contaminated landfill site lay behind our home. Yet, despite the existence of several reports about this site, identifying a ‘high risk of migrating landfill gasses capable of causing significant harm, serious injury and death’, no investigation into the site being the source of the HCN contamination detected was undertaken.
At Zane’s Inquest, held in June 2016, the Coroner determined that Zane’s death was caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning, despite the fact that no Carbon Monoxide (CO) had been detected at the incident by the HAZMAT team during any of their sweeps and that only Hydrogen Cyanide had been found.
In his verdict, the Coroner said that the source of the CO came from a faulty petrol pump, which he claimed was in operation at our house at the time. This was not true. We always said, categorically, that we had not used that faulty pump. And the Surrey Fire Service’s HAZMAT team confirmed the truth of what we said. When they detected HCN in our house, they had also logged that the said petrol pump was cold and had not been in use.
Since the tragedy, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has consistently stood at our side in our demand for the truth, and for a full and fearless Independent Panel Inquiry for Zane to uncover it.
On 21st October last year, which would have been Zane’s sixteenth birthday, we delivered our petition, signed by over 117.000 people, demanding an Independent Panel Inquiry into Zane’s death. Our petition hand-in coincided with the imminent departure of Liz Truss from the office that you now hold.
Your government’s response to our 117,000 strong petition has been to ignore it. We received a letter from Rebecca Pow MP at DEFRA simply repeating what she’d said in a letter she wrote in 2020, when she responded to Spelthorne Borough Council’s demand for an Independent Panel Inquiry for Zane. Ms Pow wrote then, as now:
‘If Zane's parents believe that there is new evidence available, they should consider making an application to the Attorney General asking her to apply to the High Court to quash the inquest and order a fresh coroner investigation.’
In her letter to us, Ms Pow made no acknowledgement of the fact that our petition had been handed in to No.10 Downing Street and no acknowledgement of the 117,000 people who have voiced their demand for an Independent Panel Inquiry for Zane.
Furthermore, we have had no acknowledgement from you, Prime Minister, although we wrote to you on 21st December 2022.
Will you please now do the right thing and grant Zane Gbangbola the Independent Panel Inquiry he deserves, to uncover the truth about what happened to him and deliver the justice that he and all citizens deserve?
We look forward to your reply.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Thank you for your support, It has been another year of struggle in the fight for truth to an unspeakably cruel tragedy in which a 7-year-old child was killed in a home infused with the nerve agent hydrogen cyanide in 2014.
The year began at speed with Andy Burnham’s Hillsborough Law Now event in January. Various events followed culminating in a rally and march to deliver our 117,000 signature petition to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street on what would have been Zane’s 16th Birthday; 21st October 2022.
The petition calling for an Independent Panel Inquiry, was delivered by several of the most respected justice campaigners of our time; including Matt Wrack GS of the FBU, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Hon Steven Reed MP; Shadow Justice Minister, and Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn. Our own Andy Burnham Mayor of Manchester addressed the rally by video.
The PM did not dignify the petition for seven-year-old Zane Gbangbola with a response. Denial, delay, and refusal, continue to sabotage public pressure for the truth that stands in plain sight.
Nicole and I would like to thank all of the TAZ supporters for their past, and future support. We stand united in truth for Zane who lost his life when he should not have had to, and human rights to investigations blocked.
RIP Beautiful Zane, and the icon that is Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Parents of boy, seven, who died from toxic fumes in his home demand a public inquiry - and deliver petition of 117,000+ signatures to Downing Street
The parents of a seven-year-old boy who died from toxic fumes in his home have delivered a petition of 117,000 signatures to Downing Street demanding a public inquiry.
Firefighters and Zane Gbangbola’s parents urged Liz Truss ‘end the cover-up’ during her last days as Prime Minister.
Zane died during flooding in Chertsey, Surrey, in 2014. Cyanide is suspected to have seeped in from an old military landfill site.
As Environment Secretary, Liz Truss pledged to ‘resolve this case as quickly as possible’ – but eight years later Zane’s parents are still fighting authorities for answers.
Kye, Zane's daddy, who was permanently disabled by the same poison that killed his son, spoke to a crowd of supporters on top of a fire engine outside Parliament. He said: “Today would have been Zane’s 16th birthday. It is not, because Zane was killed when nerve agent entered our home. We ask the Prime Minister Liz Truss to give Zane an independent panel inquiry with full disclosure to reveal the truth. Little children should not die from gas that was used to kill people in WW2 from secret landfills. The independent panel inquiry must report in full, it must be transparent and it must hold to account those doing things they should not have been doing.”
The campaign has the support of many Jeremy Corbyn and
prominent Labour MPs including Keir Starmer, Andy Burnham, and Steven Reed, the Shadow Justice Minister, who pledged to open an inquiry if his party wins the next general election. Within the Independent Panel Inquiry, a key demand is an investigation into the landfill site which borders the Gbangbola home in Chertsey, Surrey, where the MoD reportedly dumped toxic waste from a tank factory, according to an anonymous MoD whistleblower.
Baroness Natalie Bennett also backs the campaign and is pushing for the introduction of “Zane’s law” which would grant extra powers and resources to local governments to investigate contaminated land.
She said: “It would bring in a law to restore powers for local governments to check out similar sites around the country to make sure no other child is put at risk. I have been with this campaign since 2016. I did put down amendments in the last planning bill we had and in the future I will be looking to put down more.”
His mother Nicole said: "We stand before you as Zane’s grieving parents and wish to thank each and everyone of you who have come today, who have spoken here, who have signed Zane’s petition, who have not crossed the road when they saw this horrific injustice. Little children, should not be tucked up at night, and fear, they will not wake up, in the morning.'
'So much has been invested into today, into this petition thousands of hours and miles walking around asking people to sign Zane’s petition, so many times have we had to retell of our heartbreak and ask strangers to listen to our crys. We deliver this petition as a cry for help, a cry for truth and a cry for an honest investigation into what happen to our son.'
Unable to hold back the tears Zane's mummy continued 'Zane is not just a lie on a death certificate, No child was ever loved more, and we will die fighting if we have to.'
We will continue to fight until we undo the lies that dishonour our precious little boy, so he can finally rest in peace. Zane did not die accidentally; he was unlawfully killed. The evidence is there. Zane died, the authorities lied.
'Thank you for allowing us to be Zane’s voice today.''
Backed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), whose members responded to the tragedy at the time, Kye and Nicole say "key evidence" was left out of the inquest.
A flawed inquest blamed Zane’s death on fumes from a petrol pump used to clear floodwater despite ample evidence and testimony the pump was not in use.
But the Mail on Sunday found official files that showed hydrogen cyanide was detected in Zane’s home the night he died, and incident logs said the petrol pump had not been in use.
A Government spokesman told the Mail on Sunday: ‘The Environment Agency provided detailed evidence to assist the independent coroner in reaching his conclusions.'
We are reminded millions are wasted by UK public services in cover-up but it is not just a financial matter: in child abuse, the NHS and corruption, lives are ruined. From 1984 to 2016 (Orgreave, Hillsborough and Rotherham) is the most flagrant example. Hillsborough alone accounts for over £116M in legal costs so far with no costs to those who misrepresented the evidence.
TruthAboutZane are honoured to be supporters of the coalition of justice campaigns that is HillsboroughLawNow.
Join us to discuss the failure of the British legal system to secure justice for Zane, in the face of political pressures and cover-ups.
About this eventIn 2014, the failure to properly investigate and regulate contaminated landfill and the presence of dangerous chemicals by the Government resulted in the tragic death of 7-year-old Zane. Join us to discuss the failure of the British legal system to secure justice for Zane and his family, in the face of political pressures and cover-ups.
We will be joined by Zane’s parents discussing their ongoing struggle for an Independent Panel Inquiry into his death as well as Deborah Coles, executive director of Inquest, reflecting on access to truth, justice and accountability in 2022.
ONLINE ZOOM EVENT
Date: Thurs 4 August
Register here >>
Zane's parent will be speaking alongside other grieving families and advocates, MP's and campaigners at the launch of "Hillsborough Law Now" https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hillsborough-law-now-tickets-383477370137?aff=estw&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-source=tw&utm-term=listing… PLEASE READ HILLSBOROUGH LAW NOW CAMPAIGN Tuesday 19th July 2022 PLEASE NOTE: THAT DUE TO THE SEVERE WEATHER WARNING AND THE CLOSURE OF PORTCULLIS HOUSE THE HILLSBOROUGH LAW NOW WILL NOW TAKE PLACE ONLINE 18:00 -19:00
Natalie Bennett is a Green Party peer and a Contributing Editor to Left Foot Forward
Some families who’ve lost a loved one under awful circumstances, highly commendably, seek to ensure that no one else will have to suffer as they’ve suffered. It’s an impulse that’s given us important legal provisions, from Natasha’s law, about the labelling of allergens in pre-packed food, to Helen’s law, which demands that murderers cooperate with the authorities over finding their victim’s bodies before they can get parole.
And it is what’s driven the campaign for Zane’s Law – starting out its parliamentary progress yesterday as an amendment to the Building Safety Bill.
It is named after Zane Gbangbola, for whom was also founded the Truth About Zane campaign, which is still working, with support ranging from that of Sir Keir Starmer and Andy Burnham to the FBU and the CWU, to Conservative-controlled Spelthorne Borough Council. It’s a campaign to get on the record the truth about the seven-year-old’s death in Chertsey in 2014, when floods swept hideously toxic hydrogen cyanide into the family home. That’s not what the inquest verdict included in 2016 – but the inequality of arms and the illogic of that verdict – is something the campaign continues to fight on to correct.
But last year, Zane’s parents, Kye and Nicole, and their supporters took up an even broader issue – the question of why it was that they, and the rest of the community, had no knowledge of the danger of the historic landfill site near their home. They launched the campaign at Green Party conference, and took it to COP26, where Jeremy Corbyn and I talked to the family at a public event that became a podcast.
For what happened to Zane (and his father Kye – who was left paralysed by the hydrogen cyanide) could awfully, terribly easily happen to another family, or whole community.
The issue goes back to 1974, when the Control of Pollution Act first took control over waste disposal, but before that came into effect, many dumps were quietly closed, and since pretty well forgotten, as campaigner Paul Mobbs explains in a disturbing video.
EU regulations on waste and pollution required the tightening of those controls under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 143, bringing in an obligation on local authorities to investigate their areas and draw up “public registers of land that may be contaminated”. Section 61 gave local waste authorities powers to inspect closed landfills and clean them up if necessary.
But lots of new housing developments, in particular, are on old landfill sites. Under pressure, the government held three consultations on contaminated landfill registers from 1991 to 1993, eventually deciding that Section 143 would not be enacted, and all plans for public registers of contaminated sites would be dropped. The explanation given was cost, and desire not to place “new regulatory burdens on the private sector”.
Limited powers were brought in in 1995 – although not coming into force until 2000 – that meant often when developers found contamination problems, public authorities had to pay.
But it got worse In 2012, as part of the Cameron government’s “bonfire of red tape”, to reduce the statutory burdens, the right of enforcement authorities to use the law was further reduced – the emphasis being on “voluntary” cleanup, with no real power to check it has been done.
The initial draft of Zane’s Law is simple. It demands that local authorities assess the risk posed by land contamination to building safety. That’s essentially taking us back to the provision of 1990, although of course it is not that simple, so there’s a second amendment, calling for the government to publish a review examining the issue of land contamination and its impact on building safety.
The focus on buildings is because it has to fit within the scope of this Bill – ideally in future it should also cover playgrounds, farmland, and any other usage. And even just on buildings, it is picking up a crucial issue. It is evident that there’s a great risk at potential locations of new homes right around the country, from Carlisle to Cambridge, Dudley to Newbury.
But there’s also the issue of the climate emergency, new extremes of weather, particularly floods, but also heatwaves, that cause events such as that which tragically claimed young Zane’s life more likely.
To identify the size and scale of the problem, in every local authority in the land, has to be the starting point to fixing it, and preventing future risk to life.
Link to the Hansard >>
Legal Aid Agency refuse
3 times to grant family legal aid for inquest