Grenfell Tower: Hotpoint owner claims 'lit cigarette through open window' could have started fire

The claim has been dismissed as ‘desperate’ and ‘pure speculation’

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 12 December 2018 01:12
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The owner of the company which produces the fridge believed to have started the Grenfell Tower fire has claimed the blaze may have been sparked by a lit cigarette, an inquiry heard.

Whirlpool Corporation, which owns Hotpoint, claims the fire may have been started “by someone throwing something – perhaps a burning cigarette – into the kitchen through the open window”, according to Rajiv Menon.

The claim was dismissed as “desperate” and “pure speculation” by Mr Menon, who is representing Behailu Kebede, 45, the occupant of the fourth floor flat where the blaze started, during a public inquiry into the fire.

He told the inquiry: “As far as the theory of the fire having started as a result of something being thrown through the open window is concerned, this is pure speculation, desperate to put it politely.

“There is no evidence in support, it would have been impossible for a cigarette or some other mystery item to have been launched from ground level four floors down and it is equally impossible to imagine how a cigarette or some other mystery item discarded from a flat above could have miraculously entered the kitchen through the open window, let alone set anything in the vicinity alight.”

Whirlpool is said to have made the claim in its closing statement, which has been circulated among lawyers but has not yet been heard by the public inquiry.

Mr Menon claimed the suggestion was a “transparent attempt by a multinational corporation to try to avoid liability and minimise reputational damage and financial loss”.

Last month, inquiry expert Dr John Duncan Glover concluded the blaze probably began in the Hotpoint FF175BP in the kitchen of Flat 16.

A spokeswoman for Whirlpool Corporation said: “We are committed to assisting the Grenfell Tower inquiry in any way we can as it continues to investigate all the potential origins and causes of the fire and how it spread.

“Separately, we would like to reassure owners of these products that they are safe and they can continue to use them as normal.”

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She said two investigations had found “no evidence of any fault” with the fridge freezer model and that the government had verified the company’s conclusions.

Mr Menon said it was important that chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick make a finding that the fire started in the fridge freezer so that “as a society we can try to regulate in the interest of public safety”.

He added: “The inquiry must set the record straight and unequivocally declare Mr Kebede bears no responsibility indirectly or directly for the outbreak of fire in his kitchen, its spread and its fatal consequences.”

A total of 72 people died as a result of the fire on 14 June last year in north Kensington.

The inquiry is currently hearing closing statements from lawyers representing the bereaved, survivors, and organisations involved with the tower.

PA contributed to this report

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