UK

Grenfell Tower Death Toll News Met With 'Cynicism' As Police Pushed To Reveal Methodology

'Every imaginable source' of information was checked.

11/07/2017 10:47 BST

Doubts are still being expressed around the final death toll from the Grenfell Tower fire after police confirmed, in the strongest terms yet, that it would remain around 80.

Residents and commentators have held fears that due to the litany of failures that led to the blaze, and the slow release of information around the victims, that information was being suppressed or covered-up.

The death toll was originally six, before doubling to 12. A day after the June 14 disaster it increased to 17 but it did not hit 80 until June 28, where police said yesterday, that it will likely remain.  

Grenfell residents are now demanding police detail their death toll methodology. 

Singer Lily Allen ignited the death toll debate early on and Labour MP David Lammy has also voiced concerns and pressured authorities to be more forthright amid concerns as many as 150 had perished in the fire. 

The New York Times has since reported on the theories of three skeptics who put the death toll as high as 123: an Iranian biomedical engineering student who lived on the third floor (estimated at least 123 dead), a demographer who came out of retirement to bring professional techniques to bear and a software engineer in Brussels whose website has emerged as the most credible source both place the death toll in the 90s.

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Police are being pushed to reveal their methodology in reached a death toll of 80 following the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14

Police on Tuesday said that they believe the death toll would remain around 80.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt did not detail how police had come to the figure but offered a basic mathematical breakdown of how the figure had been reached: Police believe 350 people lived in the tower. Two hundred and fifty five survived and 14 were not home at the time. That leaves 81.

The update came after police last week said they had made 87 “recoveries” from the tower, but stressed “the catastrophic damage inside Grenfell Tower means that is not 87 people”. At a meeting with residents last week, police and the Westminster Coroner tried to quell cover-up fears by detailing the challenge emergency services faced in identifying the dead, detailing the “apocalyptic scenes” emergency workers faced on arrival. 

Joe Delaney, from the Grenfell Action Group, told HuffPost UK that residents had received the latest police update on the death toll “with cynicism” as they were “weary”. 

Delaney called on authorities to “publish their methodology in order to reassure residents that these figures are correct and there hasn’t been a cover up”.

He said: “Did they for example interrogate mobile phone companies to see how many phones were pinging in that area around that time and did they cross reference that information with the survivors?

“Did they check with credit reference agencies to see how many people were registered there?” 

“I would like them to publish their methodology in order to reassure residents that these figures are correct and there hasn’t been a cover up.

“Did they for example interrogate mobile phone companies to see how many phones were pinging in that area around that time and did they cross reference that information with the survivors?

“Did they check with credit reference agencies to see how many people were registered there?” 

His concerns were shared with others on social media including Lily Allen - who previously said she had heard 150 people had died. She retweeted a tweet questioning the estimate of people in the tower.

She stuck to her guns, saying she did not believe the figures, despite the fact she was accused of failing to see “the difference between a professional method of accounting for deaths and your irrational demand for guesswork”.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told HuffPost UK on Tuesday that police expect the number to remain around 80, but admitted “it may move slightly”.

The spokesman wasn’t able to comment in detail about all of the checks police had made to determine how many people were in the building at the time of the tragedy, but said, as with any police investigation, every avenue of inquiry was investigated. In respect of the Grenfell tragedy, he said, even fast food delivery companies had been questioned. 

Late last month Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack addressed concerns around a death toll cover-up by stressing “every imaginable source” of information about who was in the building had been examined, “from government agencies to fast food companies”.

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Joe Delaney, from the Grenfell Action Group, said residents had received the 

However, she also conceded that it “would be impossible for anyone to produce a list to show exactly who was at Grenfell Tower that night, that includes the people who were living there or who were visiting”. 

On Monday, police denied reports that hundreds of people were still missing, saying 73 people had been reported missing.

Of these, experts have been able to positively identify 32 victims. Due to the intensity of the fire, that raged at 1,000C, 41 people have not been identified so far. 

The Guardian reported that families have been told that the remains of their loved ones were so badly damaged by fire that it would not be possible to return them. 

Police said their investigation was the biggest probe in the force’s history that did not relate to terrorism.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said: “This fire should not have happened and as a result of that fire a large number of people have lost their lives.”