Grenfell tower fire: Death toll may have been covered up to prevent a riot, says David Lammy MP

'What people say is that if you put the numbers out early, there could be civil unrest,' says Labour politician

Maya Oppenheim
Tuesday 27 June 2017 10:56 BST
David Lammy suggests real Grenfell death toll was covered up to prevent a riot

David Lammy has argued the real number of people killed in the Grenfell Tower catastrophe may have been covered up to prevent riots.

The official figure of those who are either confirmed dead or missing and presumed dead remains at 79 but is expected to increase further. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy has said he hoped the final death toll “does not reach treble figures”.

The Labour MP for Tottenham, whose “dear friend” Khadija Saye died in the fire, said that he was "sympathetic" to the theory that figures of fatalities were being concealed.

"What people say is that if you put the numbers out early, there could be civil unrest. That's what they say," he told BBC Two's Newsnight.

He added: "I am sympathetic to it, I am going to walk alongside those people."

Pressed about whether he thought the true figures of the dead had not been released due to fear of civil unrest, Mr Lammy said: "The truth is the media cycle is now beginning to move on to other things, that's the truth.

"And so what people say is that in two, three weeks' time, if you start to reveal the numbers, things have moved on."

Mr Lammy noted that people on the ground were saying the fire claimed more lives than the official figures were showing. He argued it was imperative the public and the authorities listened to the personal accounts of people from and around Grenfell Tower.

He said: "In one flat alone, people say there were up to 40 people gathering because they gathered in the flat, it was Ramadan”.

He added: "I am being honest about what people have said to me. I was not standing outside of Grenfell Tower watching my neighbours jump and burn to death but I’ve heard those people and we should validate what they’re saying, they’re not making it up”.

Questions have been asked about why the authorities took several days to announce the current official death toll of 79 but the severity of the damage wreaked by the blaze has restricted the emergency services’ efforts to discover and identify victims.

The Met Police protocol laid out in its “major incident procedure” manual says: “There should be no speculation on fatality figures and the police should only confirm the number of dead after they have a true and accurate picture.”

Constructed in 1974, the tower is thought to have contained 120 flats and have been home to between 400 and 600 people. However, undocumented migrants and visiting partners, friends, and relatives are not included in this figure.

The emergency services has not revealed how many people were found safe after the fire.

Mr Lammy, who has been a consistently critical and outspoken voice in the wake of the inferno, said we “cannot presume” that the authorities are collating lists of those who are unaccounted for.

The politician said: “This is the sixth richest economy in the world, if we have not assembled a list of the landlords in the building then what the hell are we capable of doing, where is the register.”

Mr Lammy’s comments come as residents penned a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May demanding the Grenfell Tower disaster investigation leaves “no stone unturned” and “justice is served for everyone on the estate”.

The letter said: "It must identify each and every individual and organisation who must bear responsibility and accountability for this tragedy and the mishandling of the aftermath. There must be swift recommendations to ensure there can be no chance of a repeat of this disaster elsewhere.”

Mr Lammy previously warned a cover-up could plague the fire and issued a plea for Ms May to immediately seize all pertinent documents in the wake of the fire which destroyed the 24-storey tower almost two weeks ago.

The politician, who previously labelled the blaze “corporate manslaughter” and called for arrests to be made over the disaster, insisted the Prime Minister needed to take immediate action to ensure everyone culpable for the events at Grenfell Tower is held to account and subject to the full burden of the law.

He argued justice could only be achieved if all records – emails, minutes of meetings, correspondence with contractors, safety assessments, specifications and reports – are kept safe.

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