A police probe into the Grenfell Tower fire may consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges, Scotland Yard has confirmed.
Detectives also revealed on Tuesday that they are investigating eight cases of fraud involving people who claimed money following the blaze on June 14, along with four possible thefts from flats on the lower levels of the Tower.
The development was considered “very positive” by the Justice 4 Grenfell group but its co-ordinator expressed disappointment to HuffPost UK that police had further suggested today that the death toll may yet fall below their previous estimate of 80.
The earlier estimate of around 80 was met with “cynicism” by survivors in July. They feared as many as 150 people had died in the tragedy.
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said today that some 60 of the estimated 80 people killed had been formally identified, but the figure “may come down a little bit” due to the recoveries made from the tower, the number of identifications made and video evidence from the night, the BBC reported.
Cundy said the progress made in recovering remains was “much higher” than he had expected three months ago.
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
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.”
One of the thefts being investigated was said to involve a “considerable” sum of money, police announced.
Two of the eight people have been charged, one has been bailed, while the other allegations are still being looked into.
Since the fire, the Tower, which has 106 flats across 24 floors, has been under 24-hour security.
Yvette Williams, campaign co-ordinator of the Justice 4 Grenfell, said she would have expected police to have increased the the death toll, “just basically on the basis of the bereaved families... some still have no answers and their loved ones haven’t been identified”.
Williams added: “I think the number has always been greater (than what police have acknowledged). It is just a continuation of the narrative they’ve put out since the beginning.”
She said based on the notices on the memorial wall, “there has got to be more than 60 (identified victims)”, and suggested that residents needed to get together and map out who was in each flat, and who was missing, something that was started in the days after the tragedy: “We need concrete evidence.”
Williams greeted the news that police would consider charging individuals as “very positive” because corporate manslaughter “does not offer a custodial punishment”.
“So for individuals to have individual charges, it does go some way in offering solace to the bereaved families and the survivors,” she said.
However, Williams lamented the speed at which the police inquiry was proceeding, “it is 100 days on Friday... it has been a lengthily process”, and the fact the Crown Prosecution Service would still need to approve charges before they could be laid, something that would take “even more time”.
“In these kinds of situations you have to be patient but it is difficult, especially locally, we pass the building every day,” Williams said.
“It is three months, but it feels like a life time of worrying. The wheels of justice do move slowly, but they need to expedite some of the decisions and improve the communication strategy, because people are buying out more than engaging.”
It was further revealed at the briefing that police have seized 31 million documents and identified 336 companies with varying degrees of involvement; as part of the construction, refurbishment and management of the tower.
Police have so far taken more than 1,000 statements, and identified 2,400 different people they want to speak to.
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.
Three hundred and forty 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.”
McCormack 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.”