Police have said they are considering manslaughter charges in relation to the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze as they revealed that the insulation and cladding tiles at the building failed safety tests.
Det Supt Fiona McCormack, who is overseeing the investigation, said on Friday that officers had established the initial cause of the fire was a fridge-freezer and that it was not started deliberately.
She said they were trying to get to the bottom of why the fire grew so quickly and tests had pointed towards the cladding using aluminium composite tiles and the insulation behind it. Investigators will now seek to establish whether the use of these materials was illegal.
McCormack said: “Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the tests started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.”
She added that the insulation proved “more flammable than the cladding”. McCormack said police would investigate how the tiles were installed.
“We will identify and investigate any criminal offence and, of course, given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations,” she said.
McCormack said documents and materials had been seized from a number of organisations but no one had been questioned yet as it was too early in the investigation.
She said: “We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards, we are looking at every health and safety and fire safety offences and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.”
The manufacturer of the insulation used in the £8.6m refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has announced the material will no longer be supplied for use in cladding on high-rise buildings.
Celotex said it was stopping the supply of Celotex RS5000 for rainscreen cladding systems in buildings over 18 metres tall “with immediate effect, including in respect of ongoing projects, pending further clarity”.
Crown Prosecution Service figures last year showed that 19 companies had been charged with corporate manslaughter since the law was introduced in 2007.
There were 15 guilty verdicts, with fines ranging from £50,000 to £700,000, three acquittals and one case yet to come to trial. New sentencing guidelines introduced last year were expected to lead to higher fines for larger companies convicted of the most serious regulatory breaches.
Meanwhile, the government said technical experts were undertaking urgent tests of the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge-freezer named by police as the cause of the fire and a decision on whether to order a recall would be taken shortly.
Consumers who own a FF175BP (white) or FF175BG (grey) should contact the manufacturer but the government said there was no reason for consumers to switch off their fridge-freezer. Hotpoint expressed its condolences to the victims and said it would assist in the investigation.
Police said the official death toll had risen to nine but the number presumed dead remained at 79.