Grenfell Tower fire: Man arrested for falsely claiming his relatives had died in fatal blaze to get housing and money

Police say they will ‘investigate anyone who seeks to capitalise on the suffering of so many’

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Thursday 29 June 2017 17:54
The man attempted to claim financial support stating he had lost all his property to the disaster
The man attempted to claim financial support stating he had lost all his property to the disaster

Police have arrested a man accused of falsely claiming his relatives had died in the Grenfell Tower fire to gain housing and money.

The 52-year-old man, who has not been named, came forward in the aftermath of the disaster posing as a victim.

“He was assigned family liaison officers after he claimed that he lost his wife and son in the fire,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.

Grenfell Tower death toll of about 80 came mainly from 23 flats

“He attempted to claim financial support stating he had lost all his property.

“A police investigation started after it became apparent that there were inconsistencies in the man’s stories.”

Officers spoke to neighbours of the flat where the man claimed he lived in Grenfell Tower who confirmed he did not reside there.

Police spoke to nearby residents of the flat within Grenfell Tower who confirmed that the man did not live at the address.

“Relatives of the resident of the flat the man claimed to live in have been spoken to by their family liaison officers and made aware of this investigation,” a spokesperson added.

Investigators said the suspect lived in Bromley, 17 miles away from the site of the disaster, and does not have a wife or child.

He has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and police are not seeking anyone else in relation to the matter, which is not linked to sub-letting or immigration issues.

Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said police believed the suspect was working alone.

"The distress and suffering caused to so many families and loved ones that night is harrowing” she added.

"That night people lost their homes, all their possessions and tragically their families and loved ones. The focus of all of us should be on supporting victims and families, recovering loved ones from Grenfell Tower and investigating the fire.

“I have made it clear that we are not interested in investigating things such as sub-letting or immigration matters as I want their help – and do not want there to be any hidden victims of this tragedy.

”However, we will robustly investigate any information about anyone who seeks to capitalise on the suffering of so many.”

The man was formally arrested on Wednesday evening and remains in custody at a police station in west London.

He is the second man arrested in the wake of the fire, after a 43-year-old was detained for posting photos showing a victim's body on social media.

Survivors made homeless by the disaster are being offered temporary housing and thousands of pounds in government funding and public donations to help them rebuild their lives.

Demonstrators hold up placards as they march through London (AFP/Getty)

At least 80 people died when fire swept through the 24-storey tower block in the early hours of 14 June, although there are fears the toll could be far higher and police say it may be impossible to identify all the victims.

Among those named so far is six-month-old Leena Belkaidi, who was found dead in her mother’s arms in the stairwell after they were both killed by fumes.

Inquests into to the deaths of seven victims were opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, where the inquiries are expected to be suspended because of ongoing criminal inquiries.

Around 60 organisations have been identified as having a hand in the tower’s refurbishment, which is suspected to have helped the blaze spread.

Investigators said the fire started in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer, before spreading to “combustible” cladding and insulation on the outside of the building.

At least 137 cladding samples tested throughout the UK have failed safety tests as local authorities examine tower blocks for other issues seen in Grenfell, including inadequate fire doors and insulation of gas pipes.

A public inquiry into the fire will be led by a retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

Theresa May has insisted residents will be given a say over the direction of the investigation, having called a full inquiry to ensure the causes of the disaster are “properly investigated”.

Anyone with information on anyone who may have been inside Grenfell Tower at the time of the blaze is urged to call police on 0800 032 4539.