Grenfell Tower: Final death toll at 71 as probe continues

The final death toll from the Grenfell Tower tragedy stands at 71. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire
The final death toll from the Grenfell Tower tragedy stands at 71. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire

POLICE have pledged to continue their “complex and challenging” probe into the Grenfell Tower blaze, as it was confirmed 70 people and a stillborn baby make up the final death toll.

The Metropolitan Police are undertaking one of the force’s largest ever investigations into the fire, which ripped through the 24-storey block in west London.

A “mammoth” search operation is expected to come to an end in December, but forensics teams believe all victims of the fire have been recovered and identified, five months on.

As well as 70 adults and children, a baby, Logan Gomes, who was stillborn, has been recorded as a victim. Scotland Yard has said its criminal investigation may consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges.

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Asked whether police are any closer to bringing charges, Commander Stuart Cundy said: “I’m never going to comment on the progress of an investigation itself but this is one of the largest investigations the Met Police has ever undertaken.

“It is hugely complex and challenging. We are using experts and specialists from a wide variety of disciplines to establish what happened.”

Mr Cundy said it is “impossible” to put a timescale on when any charges may be brought.

“We will follow the evidence wherever it takes us and if the evidence exists we will do whatever we can to bring those responsible to justice through whatever proceedings are appropriate.”

In the immediate aftermath of the blaze 400 people were listed as missing.

Police said footage showed 223 people escaping the fire, while others were not at home on the night of June 14.

Mr Cundy said police had undertaken a “meticulous” search, recovery and identification operation, sifting through more than 15 tonnes of debris on each floor of the building.

He said: “Specialist teams working inside Grenfell Tower and the mortuary have pushed the boundaries of what was scientifically possible to identify people.”

The death toll was initially feared to be much higher as the Met handled thousands of calls from people who believed they knew someone who had been trapped in the tower.

One person was reported missing 46 times, while others were reported under different names, and even slight differences of spellings of names had to be investigated.

There were also a number of false claims, and eight people have been charged or are under investigation for fraud in connection with the disaster.

Earlier this month, Anh Nhu Nguyen, 52, admitted two counts of fraud after claiming his wife and son died in the blaze, to pocket £12,500 intended to help victims.

A public inquiry, led by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is looking at events on the night of the fire, how and why the block came to be wrapped in flammable cladding and insulation, and the response of Kensington and Chelsea Council and central Government after the fire.

Asked about concerns that the police investigation could affect the progress of the inquiry, Mr Cundy said the two have different roles but acknowledged some overlap.

He said: “It’s not about us holding up the public inquiry, we are sharing all the information which we obtained through our investigation with them, but such is the scale of our investigation, it will take some time.”

Procedural hearings in the inquiry will take place on December 11 and 12.

The police forensic examination is expected to conclude by spring when officers will begin analysing all the witness and video evidence.