Northampton crush-death nightclub's licence is suspended

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The Independent Online

The nightclub where student Nabila Nanfuka died in a crush had its licence suspended today pending an investigation.

Miss Nanfuka, 22, a leisure and tourism student at Northampton University, died following the incident at the Lava and Ignite club in Northampton in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Today Northampton Borough Council's licensing committee suspended the club's licence while an investigation is carried out.

Miss Nanfuka, who was described by her family as "one in a million" and a "beautiful person", died as a result of suspected crush injuries.

Two other women, who have not been identified, were critically injured in the incident and are being treated in Northampton General Hospital.

Police handed evidence to Northampton Borough Council over concerns surrounding the premises and formally asked the licensing panel to review Lava and Ignite's licence.

A special sub-committee, led by council members, met this morning to discuss the matter.

Miss Nanfuka's younger brother Fahad Msimbe paid tribute to his sister and called her his "best friend".

Speaking outside the family home in Neasden, north west London, he said: "She affected so many people's lives and put other people first.

"She is one in a million, really. She was my best friend, my sister.

"I still haven't come to terms with the fact she has passed away, it still hasn't sunk in.

"She was a really beautiful person in every way. She was really interested in the leisure and tourism industry, but she didn't have a specific role that she wanted to take when she finished (university).

"My mother is torn apart. She is finding it difficult, like most mothers would."

Northamptonshire Police officers were called to the nightclub in Northampton town centre around 3.30am yesterday.

The force is investigating claims that a fire alarm prompted a stampede for the exits of the crowded club in St Peters Way after revellers were warned that their buses home were about to leave.

The decision by the sub-committee is an interim step which means a full review will now be carried out of the club's licence. The review must be carried out by the licensing committee in the next 28 days.

The council will then meet again to consider the findings of the review.

At the start of today's meeting held at Northampton's Guildhall, Philip Bayliss, principal licensing officer at Northampton Borough Council, expressed his sympathy for Ms Nanfuka's family and friends.

He said Northamptonshire Police had served a review certificate under section 53 of the Licensing Act 2003 on the club yesterday due to "serious disorder breaking out at the premises".

Pc David Bryan, Licensing Officer at Northamptonshire Police, told the sub-committee that a member of the promotions team had been arrested following the incident on suspicion of a public disorder offence.

He said police were at the scene as there were significant crowds both inside and outside the club.

People panicked due to overcrowding and fighting broke out on the stairs, he said.

The force took a call from a group of people who became trapped in a lift.

The situation inside escalated due to the crowds and the club lost control of the premises and capacity, he added.

Two people remain in a critical condition in hospital following the incident, he said.

Pc Bryan said the police force was not made aware of the event, which had been advertised nationally, with revellers coached in from across the UK.

Flyers distributed by the event wrongly advertised that it was being supported by Northamptonshire Police, he said.

The police refused to comment on the number of people thought to have been in the club.

The capacity of the club was 1,600 people, they said.

Sergeant Mark Worthington, licensing sergeant at Northamptonshire Police, told councillor Terry Wire from St James Ward that it would be inappropriate to comment further as a file was being prepared for the coroners and criminal proceedings could follow.

Simon Douglas, the chief executive of the club's owners Luminar Leisure, told the meeting he was deeply saddened by the tragic death and said the firm had launched its own investigation into the incident.

He said the group was fully co-operating with police and local authorities and that his thoughts were with the victims' families and friends.

He said it had no objection to the licence being suspended in order for the review to take place.

A solicitor acting for the firm said it believed that an announcement from the DJ saying that coaches were leaving prompted a crush which led to a young woman being killed.

Following a short break to consider their decision, the sub-committee concluded that the premises' licence should be suspended in order to uphold public safety and to allow for a full investigation into the circumstances.

Following the meeting, Julie Seddon, Northampton Borough Council's director for environment and culture said: "Northampton Borough Council's licensing committee has today held a summary review into the licence of Lava and Ignite.

"This was in response to an application made by Northamptonshire Police following an incident at the club earlier this week where a woman died.

"The Licensing Committee has decided that, due to the severity of the incidents reported, the loss of life and the number of serious injuries, the only viable course of action is to suspend the premises' licence.

"This is an interim decision and a full hearing into the licence will be held within the next 28 days."

A meeting of the Licensing Committee will review the suspension at a later date.