Police mull manslaughter charges over London blaze

by Dario THUBURN
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Police mull manslaughter charges over London blaze

London (AFP) - Manslaughter charges could be filed over London's deadly tower blaze, police said Friday after finding that exterior cladding on the building had failed safety tests and that the fire started with a faulty fridge.

The government ordered immediate checks on the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer model blamed for the June 14 blaze in west London, which left 79 people presumed dead.

Hotpoint-branded fridge freezers were manufactured by Indesit between 2006 and 2009, before Indesit was bought by current owner Whirlpool.

"We are addressing this as a matter of utmost urgency and assisting the authorities in any way we can," US-based Whirlpool said in a statement.

It also urged owners of Hotpoint fridge freezer models FF175BP or FF175BG to contact them "so that we can register their details and contact them with further information".

In an update on the investigation, Fiona McCormack from London's Metropolitan Police said: "We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards."

Referring to the tiles and insulation on the outside of the building, which have been widely blamed for the rapid spread of the flames, she said: "All I can say at the moment is they don't pass any safety tests."

- Charity song hits top spot -

The cladding was installed on the 24-storey council-owned Grenfell Tower, which was built in 1974, as part of a refurbishment completed last year.

It has prompted a wider review of social housing which has identified at least 600 towers in England with similar cladding.

McCormack said police had also established that the fire started with a faulty fridge, identifying the Hotpoint model.

She said the model had not been subject to any product recall.

McCormack said police were investigating companies involved in the building and refurbishment of the tower, and possible "health and safety and fire safety offences".

She said all "complete bodies" had been removed and there was "a terrible reality that we may not find or identify everyone who died due to the intense heat.

"We have been in Grenfell Tower, from top to bottom, last week," she explained.

"Next week, we will be installing a lift to the outside of the building to assist. But our forensic search may not be complete until the end of the year."

She also repeated calls for any members of the public with information about people who may have been in the tower at the time of the blaze to contact the police.

Police fear the toll may be higher because some residents may have been living in the tower illegally.

"Our forensic search may not be complete until the end of the year," McCormack added.

Prime Minister Theresa May stressed on Thursday that all Grenfell victims, regardless of their immigration status, would be able to access whatever help they need.

A charity single released to raise money for survivors of the fire reached the top spot in the British charts on Friday after selling more than 170,000 copies.

The track is a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by 50 artists including Stormzy, Emeli Sande, Robbie Williams and Paloma Faith.