Met commissioner defends official Grenfell Tower death toll

Cressida Dick repeats previous warnings that true number of people who died in disaster may never be known

Britain’s most senior police officer has sought to defend the official death toll of the Grenfell Tower disaster, saying that the public would not forgive the authorities if they guessed at how many people may have died in the tower block.

Met police commissioner Cressida Dick said officers were doing their “level best” to share information about the blaze with the public as she was challenged about the official response during a radio call-in.

“Nobody would forgive us for guessing or getting it wrong,” she said during Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show, after a caller named David asked whether she felt it was unacceptable that families may have to wait up to a year to discover the fate of their loved ones.

“I wish this wasn’t happening, I wish it hadn’t happened. But if it takes a year to do the job, it takes a year to do the job,” she said.

A team including forensic specialists, archaeologists, anthropologists and disaster victim identification specialists is still combing the tower. “They are working through every flat,” Dick said. “They are on their hands and knees, they are sifting every single bit of material to see if they can find any more traces or remains of people.”

She repeated previous warnings that the true toll of the disaster may never be known. This was because of “the nature of the population” of the tower, she said, which may have included people the authorities had not yet been told about, but also because of the heat generated by the fire, which may mean that some of the victims left “no remains that could possibly be identified”.

The police have said they expect the number of fatalities to remain around 80, despite residents and survivors claiming many more may have been killed in the 24-storey building.

Dick acknowledged the anger the disaster had caused. “This is an area which has been devastated. People are still tremendously upset,” she said.

The commissioner also addressed the recent spate of acid attacks in the capital. She said it was “completely barbaric” and said the number of such attacks was on the rise. “Until fairly recently we haven’t seen this at all commonly ... we are concerned, because the numbers appear to be going up.”

The Met and Home Office are looking at restrictions on the sales of corrosive substances as it is “easier than you or I would think it ought to be” to buy some acids over the counter, she said. “Why on earth would a normal person need sulphuric acid, for example?”

Dick also discussed the recent terror attacks in London, saying the Met had foiled five attacks in recent months, including some that were on the brink of being carried out. Asked by Ferrari whether this meant they had been minutes away, she said: “Yes.”

Barricades that have been installed on London’s Thames crossings to prevent further attacks like the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge attacks are likely to be a permanent feature, although they may be redesigned, she said.

“They are highly effective; they are not very attractive,” she said. “We need to work with the local authorities and with the mayor and Transport for London to get a similar effect, but perhaps something which is not quite as ugly ... I think they will be needed for ever.”


Alice Ross

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Why the Grenfell Tower official death toll has risen so slowly
There has been anger over the pace at which victims have been identified, but police are committed to rigorous protocols

Caroline Davies

23, Jun, 2017 @9:41 AM

Article image
Sadiq Khan says new Met commissioner must admit to force’s failings
London mayor says appointee must understand extent of ‘cultural and organisational problems’ in Met

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

17, Jun, 2022 @4:23 PM

Article image
Grenfell fire: volunteers help residents compile death toll
Frustration grows at failure of authorities to say who survived, who perished and who is still missing, 17 days on

Amelia Gentleman

30, Jun, 2017 @5:44 PM

Article image
‘Imminent’ decision on future of Cressida Dick as Met commissioner
Priti Patel and Dick discussed the commissioner’s future last week, it is understood

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

29, Aug, 2021 @4:21 PM

Article image
Scepticism persists over Grenfell death toll despite Met's final figure
Rumours about hundreds of victims quickly took hold after blaze, and mistrust of officials remains potent

Amelia Gentleman

16, Nov, 2017 @5:08 PM

Article image
Met police increased use of section 60 stop and search during lockdown
Exclusive: number of people stopped with no grounds for suspicion doubled compared with previous year

Sarah Marsh

27, Jul, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Campaigners and MPs call for misogyny to be made a hate crime
Letter sent to Met police commissioner says women are being left unprotected

Alexandra Topping

14, Jan, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
London homicides now highest annual rate for a decade
2018 tally of 131 deaths includes 75 stabbings and comes as police await funding decision

Vikram Dodd and Jamie Grierson

12, Dec, 2018 @6:27 PM

Article image
Grenfell Tower death toll of 71 unlikely to rise as last inquests open
All bereaved families have had loved ones released back to them and most funerals have taken place, says coroner

Harriet Sherwood

22, Nov, 2017 @6:52 PM

Article image
Grenfell Tower police make 87 recoveries of human remains
Met commander says officers have made 87 recoveries but cannot confirm they come from 87 people

Matthew Weaver

05, Jul, 2017 @11:13 AM