Witnesses say building blew up within minutes: Cinema death blaze: Murder of eight at 'dingy' club prompts demands for review of fire rules and inspections
Monday 28 February 1994
cinema to save men trapped and screaming for help.
One customer jumped onto the vehicle's roof from the first floor of the four-storey building but flames forced the van driver to move before two others could follow.
'Few people were around,' said Peter Cook, 45, from Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, outside the gutted premises in St John Street. 'We were working in the offices next door when I first saw flames. Then the building just blew up. I ran downstairs to check my lads were safe then we backed up the van. The people inside were hysterical. My mate shouted 'jump' and one man did. There were two other men but the flames were so bad we had to back off. By then the fire brigade had arrived.
'It all happened so quickly. The place went up in five minutes. I doubt people had much chance of getting out.'
Clearly upset, Mr Cook said the middle-aged man he helped to escape had been badly shaken but did not appear to be seriously injured.
When firemen arrived within minutes of the fire being reported, the entire building was ablaze. At one point, about 20 people scrambled to get out on to a single fire brigade turntable ladder. In the panic, one man was said to have dived out of a window head first.
Valerie Martin, a local resident who was one of the first on the scene, said: 'There were people lying everywhere and they were really badly burnt - their skin, their heads, their arms. It was really horrible. The police and ambulancemen were trying to resuscitate them.'
Mrs Martin said closed circuit television cameras were installed to monitor movements up the stairs to the cinema. There were also closed- circuit cameras outside the Big Pictures photographic agency next door. 'Whoever started it, started it in the passageway. That's why people couldn't get out.'
She said she helped one of the victims who escaped from the flames. 'I held him up by his arms. He was badly burnt, the back of his neck, his arms and chest. His clothes were just stuck to his body. He couldn't move his hands, he was shaking so much.'
Mrs Martin reported seeing two men aged 18 to 22 laughing at the blaze, and gave their descriptions to police.
Yesterday the building, near Smithfield meat market, was no more than a charred shell. As investigators sifted through the debris, ragged curtains fluttered from the windowless upper floors. Just within the 50ft police cordon, the pillar of a local bank and an adjacent pavement were heavily stained with blood.
Although the area bustles on weekdays, it is quiet at weekends. Few locals appear to have known about the club. A taxi driver who has worked the area for years said he had no idea it existed. There is a rear entrance to the building, though it was not known whether it was a proper fire escape or if it was open at the time.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...