‘DETAILED PROBE MAY DELAY CHARGES’
THE criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower tragedy could result in manslaughter charges although prosecution could be months away due to the complex forensic work needing to take place, police have claimed.
The 24-storey social housing block in west London was destroyed on June 14 by a fire that started on a lower floor but engulfed the whole building.
So far, police have formally identified around 60 of the victims. Commander Stuart Cundy, who has overall control of police operations at Grenfell Tower, said on Tuesday (19) it was likely the final death toll would be a little below 80.
Detective chief inspector Matt Bonner, in charge of the criminal side of the police investigation, said a forensic examination of the tower would continue into 2018 and would be followed by lengthy laboratory analysis.
“I will seek to identify and deal with whatever offences come to light during that investigation,” he said.
“The kind of stuff that I would envisage we may come across would involve offences perhaps of fraud, misconduct offences, health and safety breaches, breaches of fire safety regulations and of course, offences of manslaughter whether that be on a corporate or an individual level,” he added.
The building, which was primarily home to a low-income, multi-ethnic community, was owned by the borough of Kensington and Chelsea and managed by an administration that ran social housing on the borough’s behalf.
Bonner said police had identified 336 companies or organisations that were involved in the refurbishment, construction and management of the tower and officers had recovered approximately 31 million documents.
It has since come to light that police are now also investigating allegations of thefts from some of the less damaged apartments in the building. There has been one confirmed theft of money from one of the flats and three further allegations of theft, they said.
The thefts were initially discovered when former residents had been let into their apartments to pick up any possessions.
Detective chief superintendant McCormack said: “I can’t tell you how personally devastating these reports of thefts are, for the victims, for me and everyone involved in the investigation who is working so hard. We have one confirmed theft and are looking at three more allegations and we will thoroughly investigate. We do not yet know how this has happened.
“We have 24 hour security at Grenfell Tower but this has been reviewed and some changes immediately put into place.”
On Monday (18), officers from the investigation team and the coroner met families of those who died or are missing in private to update them.
Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona McCormack said: “The investigation into what happened at Grenfell Tower is a priority for the Met and we are determined to find the answers that so many desperately seek. The distress and suffering caused to so many families and loved ones that night is harrowing. That night people lost their homes, all their possessions and tragically their families and loved ones.
The latest victim formally identified as Eastern Eye went to press is eight-year-old Mehdi El-Wahabi who has been described as a “calm and friendly young boy who loved his family very much.”
Residents had complained for years about fire safety in the tower and have voiced anger at delays in assistance following the blaze as well as scepticism about whether an inquiry, which began last Thursday (14), could help.
Reportedly six hundred people have been receiving counselling since the blaze, including 100 children and many firefighters who responded to the tragedy.