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Fire chiefs could face prosecution for Grenfell 'stay-put' advice as police probe policy which doomed residents (They just did hat they were told, 72 dead my arse, how many flats?)

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Fire chiefs could face prosecution for Grenfell 'stay-put' advice as police probe policy which doomed residents

  • London Fire Brigade didn't abandon 'stay put' policy until 2 hours after fire began
  • Met says they have an 'obligation' to probe if it contributed to the 72 deaths 
  • Fire chiefs say that they were in an 'impossible position' during terrible blaze  
  • Terrified residents had dialled 999 and were instructed to stay in their flats 
  • Police today arrested eight men and a woman over alleged Grenfell Tower frauds
Fire chiefs could be in the dock after police today launched a criminal investigation into the controversial decision to tell Grenfell Tower residents to 'stay put' as the block burned.  
Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said his officers have an 'absolute obligation' to consider if the London Fire Brigade diktat contributed to the deaths of 72 people in west London last June.
London Fire Brigade has defended itself over its order relayed to residents in the burning tower saying they had been in an 'impossible situation' that night.
The inquiry into the worst fire for a generation has already heard, however, that firefighters on the ground had been begging bosses to abandon the policy as flames reached the top of building within 20 minutes.
Yet senior London Fire Brigade officers in the control room only ordered the evacuation an hour and 50 minutes after the first 999 call.
According to the fire brigade, the policy was not abandoned until 2.47am - two hours after the blaze started
According to the fire brigade, the policy was not abandoned until 2.47am - two hours after the blaze started
At the same time Deputy Assistant Commissioner Adrian Fenton demanded the 'stay put' order be stopped when he switched on Sky News and saw the building engulfed.
Speaking today Commander Cundy said: '71 people plus baby Logan died as a direct result of that fire. It's an absolute obligation on us to be looking at the most serious potential criminal offences that may have been committed.
Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said today his officers have an 'absolute obligation' to consider if the stay put diktat was illegal and caused the deaths of 72 people in north London last June
Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said today his officers have an 'absolute obligation' to consider if the stay put diktat was illegal and caused the deaths of 72 people in north London last June
He added at a press briefing that the criminal probe into 'stay put' will be part of the wider Scotland Yard investigation into the fire.  
This 'stay put' advice – which was slavishly adhered to by the emergency services for almost two hours – has been blamed for contributing to the deaths of the 72 victims. 
On the night of the blaze last June, terrified residents dialling 999 were instructed to stay in their flats in the 24-storey block rather than risk the flames and deadly fumes.
Despite this, the Daily Mail has learnt that the policy is still in place in all the tower blocks close to the burnt-out remains of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, west London. Warning signs insist that in the event of a fire residents 'should initially be safe' if they close their doors and windows.
These signs are identical to the safety advice notices which were in the communal corridors in Grenfell.
The policy was widely criticised at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry last week by relatives of the victims.
Paulos Tekle, whose five-year-old son Isaac died in the blaze, told the public inquiry how neighbours urged the family to flee, but during numerous 999 calls over two hours he was repeatedly told to 'stay put' – until he was ordered abruptly to get his family out immediately.
Fire and rescue workers at a one minute silence by Grenfell Tower in West London after the tragedy. Many are said to have urged bosses not to use 'stay put' for so long
Fire and rescue workers at a one minute silence by Grenfell Tower in West London after the tragedy. Many are said to have urged bosses not to use 'stay put' for so long
But by then the fire had spread, the building's only stairwell was filled with smoke and, in the chaos, Isaac became separated from his parents.

Fire chiefs say there was no obvious alternative to Stay Put 

Fire commanders marshalling the battle against the Grenfell Tower inferno had 'no obvious and safe alternative strategy' than telling residents to stay put, an inquiry has heard.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been criticised for the length of time taken to abandon the policy - nearly two hours after the blaze was first reported - despite flames reaching every floor.
On the final day of opening statements at the inquiry into the disaster, The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said both commanders and firefighters were left in an 'impossible situation'.
The refurbishment of the building has seen material installed that made it a 'highly combustible death trap', which the brigade lacked training and procedures to tackle, the union said.
Fire safety advice within tall buildings is set by the building owners, not the fire service, meaning it accords with the design specifications and escape capabilities.
Stephen Walsh QC, representing the LFB, told the inquiry: 'It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the events of the fire and of fire service capability to assume the building's stay-put policy can be changed to a simultaneous evacuation at the stroke of a fire incident commander at whatever time.
'If there is no policy applied by the building owner which provides for a policy of simultaneous evacuation and there are no evacuation plans and there are no general fire alarms - what is an incident commander on the fireground to do?'
Martin Seaward, for the FBU, used his opening statement to ask 'what alternative strategy might have been implemented' in the fast-moving situation.
He said: 'There remains no obvious and safe alternative strategy nor detailed plan.' 
Mr Tekle, his wife and their three-year-old son survived, but Isaac's remains were found on the 13th floor. He was one of the youngest victims of the blaze.
Last night, residents of the towers around Grenfell described the decision to keep the disputed policy as 'madness' and 'absolutely criminal'.
Many witnessed the speed at which the flames enveloped Grenfell on June 14 last year, and said there is no doubt they would flee immediately if there was a fire in their tower block.
Marcus John, 28, who lives in Dixon House, said: 'I lost two cousins in the Grenfell fire. This advice should be changed after what happened. It's nearly a year on since the tragedy and nothing has changed.'
A resident of Hazlewood Tower added: 'The 'stay put' policy is absolutely criminal. It would be suicide to stay in the flat if there was a fire. This advice is just madness. I would just leave the building. I would disregard the advice on the wall.
'They should review what they are telling people. The fire brigade came to visit the block last year. They told us the best thing to do is stay in our flats. But I don't think this is the right thing to do.'
A woman who gave her name only as Gloria, who lives on the 19th floor of Frinstead House, said: 'I saw the Grenfell fire from beginning to end. I saw people jumping to their deaths.
'I never thought I would see something like that in my life. It will stay with me my whole life. If there was a fire and I stayed in this building I would end up jumping to my death like they did.
'The people who run this block keep threatening residents with fines for dog mess, but they don't seem interested in fire safety.
'We don't even have a proper fire escape.'
Prior to the Grenfell blaze, tower block residents were told to stay put because the perceived wisdom is that fires in individual flats can usually be contained.
But the use of flammable cladding on the outside of Grenfell – installed as a cheaper option during a refurbishment programme in 2015 – caused the fire that started on the fourth floor to spread at an alarming rate until it engulfed the entire building, with dense plumes of black smoke filling corridors and the only staircase. An in-depth exposé by the London Review of Books last week concluded that the 'stay put' advice 'caused nearly all of the 72 deaths'.
Kensington and Chelsea Council, which was responsible for Grenfell, said it continues to tell residents to 'stay put' in all its tower blocks on the advice of fire chiefs as none of the outside walls on its high-rises has cladding.
A spokesman for London Fire Brigade said: 'Our advice remains the same, and that is to stay put if a fire breaks out in another part of the building and you are not being affected by the fire, heat or smoke.
'If you leave your flat you could be rushing into dangerous smoke, the fire itself or firefighters using equipment to bring the fire under control in another part of the building.
'Stay put advice may be temporarily suspended for a limited number of buildings with [flammable] cladding.'
The fire brigade added that there are about 100 buildings in London where the 'stay put' advice has been suspended. 

Who else has been convicted over Grenfell Tower frauds? 

Anh Nhu Nguyen pretended his wife and 12-year-old son were killed in the blaze so he could claim charity handouts.
He pocketed £11,270 as he was put up in hotels and given clothing, laptops and cash.
But police discovered the 53-year-old had 28 convictions for 56 offences spanning more than 30 years, including theft, dishonesty offences, arson and grievous bodily harm.
Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam, even tried to apply for a passport by claiming his had been incinerated. He was jailed for 21 months in February.Elaine Douglas and Tommy Brooks falsely claimed they lived in Grenfell Tower to claim more than £120,000.
The illegal immigrants spent eight months living in a four-star hotel, with taxpayers footing the £400-a-night bill.
They also spent more than £20,000 on meals and clothing on pre-paid credit cards which were given to them by Kensington and Chelsea council.
The pair entered Britain illegally from Jamaica 16 years ago on separate flights and were ordered to leave by immigration officials only to vanish – reappearing in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy last year.  
Joyce Msokeri falsely claimed to have lost her husband in the blaze so that she could claim thousands of pounds.
The conwoman travelled 14 miles from her own flat to the tower block and convinced charity workers she had survived the inferno.
She feigned trauma to obtain handouts of £19,000 in cash, food, clothing, three mobile phones and free stays at a Hilton hotel. The 47-year-old would have received £203,000 in handouts if she had not been caught.
When Msokeri, from Zimbabwe, kept giving them different numbers for her flat in the tower block, her apparent forgetfulness was put down to trauma. She was jailed for four-and-a-half years in April. 
Mohammad Gamoota
Mohammad Gamoota
Mohammad Gamoota trawled a list of the dead then told officials his father was Abdeslam Sebbar, who had died after becoming trapped in his flat.Police arrest nine 'Grenfell fraudsters' suspected of falsely claiming up to £100,000 each in series of dawn raids
By Richard Spillett, Crime Correspondent For MailOnline 
Police have arrested nine alleged fraudsters suspected of having falsely claimed they were Grenfell survivors so they could get handouts.
A series of dawn raids were carried out around the capital by detectives investigating claims fraudsters exploited the disaster to claim tens of thousands of pounds meant for real victims.
Eight men and a woman are in custody over the alleged frauds, which range from £25,000 to £100,000 in value, Scotland Yard said.
Police have made a series of arrests over allegations of fraud by people claiming to be victims or survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire
Police have made a series of arrests over allegations of fraud by people claiming to be victims or survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire
Police believe two of the individuals are linked but said all the offences are separate.
Some of those arrested were living in hotels when they were detained, the Met Police revealed.
Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner, Senior Investigating Officer, said: 'It is completely unacceptable that people would seek to profit from such a human tragedy, and try and attach themselves to a community that they are not part of.
'Over the last 12 months I have met all the families whose loved ones died; many of the survivors and members of the local community from Grenfell.'
In response to the announcement, Shahin Sadafi, chair of Grenfell United said: 'It is hurtful and saddening that people would take advantage of a tragedy like this.
'It is not just that they have taken funds and charity that was not for them, it is disrespectful to the real victims of the fire and people who lost their lives.
Elaine Douglas (pictured) and Tommy Brooks were found to have lived in a hotel at taxpayers' expenseElaine Douglas and Tommy Brooks (pictured) were found to have lived in a hotel at taxpayers' expense
Elaine Douglas and Tommy Brooks were found to have lived in a hotel at taxpayers' expense
Mohammad Ali Gamoota has already been jailed for Grenfell scamsJoyce Msokeri has already been jailed for Grenfell scams
Mohammad Ali Gamoota and Joyce Msokeri have already been jailed for Grenfell scams
'Our community has shown strength, determination and dignity throughout the last year. Grenfell Tower was a community of good decent people, and we were proud to be each others' neighbours.
'These people have absolutely no place here. We are relieved they have been identified and rooted out.'
A series of fraudsters have already been brought before the courts for defrauding charities and authorities out of money in the wake of the fire, which claimed 82 lives.
Earlier this month, Mohammad Gamoota, 31, was jailed for 18 months for pretending to be a Grenfell Tower victim's son to get £5,000 and free hotel stays.
Jamaican nationals Elaine Douglas, 51, and Tommy Brooks, 52, are awaiting sentence for spending eight months living in a four-star hotel at the taxpayers' expense at a cost of £400-a-night.
They also spent more than £20,000 on meals and clothing on pre-paid credit cards which were given to them by the local council.
Another fraudster, Anh Nhu Nguyen, met Prince Charles during his time posing as a victim
Another fraudster, Anh Nhu Nguyen, met Prince Charles during his time posing as a victim
In April, Joyce Msokeri, 47, was jailed for four-and-a-half years at the Old Bailey for fraud after posing as a Grenfell survivor in a £19,000 scam.
She claimed around £19,000 in cash donations, electronics, handbags, dresses and hotel costs - and filled a room at Hilton hotel with donations from charities.
Two months prior, in February, serial conman Anh Nhu Nguyen, 53, was jailed for 21 months after pretending his family died in the Grenfell fire.
He claimed his wife and son were killed in the atrocity to obtain about £12,500 from funds intended for victims - and even met Prince Charles as he posed as a survivor.

Grenfell's ground zero: But what did start the horror? 

By David Wilkes for The Daily Mail 
Released for the first time yesterday, these images reveal the charred and mangled remains of the inside of the flat where the Grenfell Tower inferno began.
Walls and ceilings are blackened and kitchen appliances sit scorched and warped out of shape inside fire-ravaged flat 16 on the fourth floor.
What was left of the fridge freezer – which it was previously suggested by police was to blame – is visible, along with the washing machine, microwave and other items, including one identified in an official report as 'possible kettle' and another as 'possible toaster'.
Sliding doors which separated the kitchen from the living room, which was reduced to the same ghostly appearance, are gone.
Niamh Nic Daeid, Professor of Forensic Science at the Leverhulme Research Centre at the University of Dundee, made two visits to Grenfell, during which she was provided with access to flat 16.
In a report released yesterday, she told how firefighters also captured images of the inside of flat 16 on the night of the fire with a thermal imaging camera
The bedroom: The fire tore through the house in Grenfell tower
The bedroom: The fire tore through the house in Grenfell tower
The living room: Furniture destroyed by the flames lies in tatters
The living room: Furniture destroyed by the flames lies in tatters
The kitchen: Worktops lie in tatters after the flames engulfed the flat
The kitchen: Worktops lie in tatters after the flames engulfed the flat
Firefighter Daniel Brown, who broke down the door of the two-bedroom flat, said that 'black smoke billowed out'.
Professor Daeid said it was possible to say that the origin of the fire was in the southeast corner of the kitchen and that 'it is more likely than not that this was in or around the area of the tall fridge freezer'. 
But she said there was insufficient information to pinpoint the cause of the fire. 

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