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Grenfell Tower probe may consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges say Met

Grenfell Tower on fire in west London
Jemma Crew

THE criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire may consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges, the Metropolitan Police said.

Detectives are also investigating eight cases of fraud involving people who claimed or attempted to claim money following the disaster and four possible thefts from flats on the lower levels while the building was under 24-hour security, the force revealed during a briefing on Tuesday.

Police now believe that the death toll from the June 14 blaze "may come down a little bit" from the current estimate of around 80.

This is due to the recoveries made from the tower, the number of identifications made, and CCTV evidence that showed around 240 people left the tower between midnight and 8am on the night of the fire.

Commander Stuart Cundy said the progress made in terms of recovering remains was "much higher" than he had expected three months ago.

But, he said, there could still be people with no social or family connection outside of the tower, and not on any official lists, who therefore could still be within the high-rise.

He declined to put a number on how many the death count could fall by.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner said the investigation would deal with "whatever offences come to light".

He said: "The kind of stuff 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 warned this did not mean that investigators had already come across evidence suggesting culpability on these issues.

Mr Cundy said it was "pretty unique" to have the public inquiry running alongside the criminal investigation, but promised: "If we identify something that's an issue of public safety, regardless of any investigative concerns, we will share that with whoever is appropriate, and of course that will include the public inquiry".

So far, investigators have seized 31 million documents and 2,500 exhibits, identified 2,400 different individuals to speak to, and taken more than 1,000 statements.

They have identified 336 different organisations with "varying degrees of involvement" as part of the construction, refurbishment and management strands.

A fourth strand of the investigation is looking at the emergency response to the fire.

Some 675 firefighters, 340 police officers and a similar number of ambulance staff were part of the response up until 8pm on June 14.

And 340 body-worn clips from emergency services personnel on the night have also been documented and downloaded.

Forensic examination of the tower will run into 2018, followed by laboratory testing.

Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said the number of officers working in the tower was doubled on Monday in the hope of completing the recovery process by the New Year.

She said: "It's a really harrowing scene ... and it takes a finger tip and sieved approach to ensure that we get every remain that we can out of there."

She added: "It's a meticulous process and now it's becoming harder due to the degree of fire damage and the fragmentation of the remaining people we are finding."

Ms McCormack said the Met was currently looking into eight cases of fraud relating to people who had claimed or had attempted to claim money following the fire.

She said police had received an "incredible" number of reports of people who may have been in the tower or were unaccounted for, some of which were "reported fraudulently".

Two of the eight individuals have been charged, one has been bailed, while the other allegations are still being investigated.

The force was also investigating reports of four thefts, including one confirmed theft of a substantial amount of money, from flats near the bottom of the tower, which came to light in the last 10 days.

Police are working to establish if three further incidents are also thefts or whether it is the case that certain items from flats had been moved into storage.

Apologising that the 24-hour security had not been enough, she said: "I can't explain to you the devastation that every police officer at Grenfell Tower ... feels about that."

She said security measures around the tower have since been "significantly" increased, including scaffolding with alarms and extra lighting.

Mr Cundy added he was "just so disappointed, that something like that could happen on the back of such a huge tragedy for so many people".

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