- London’s Met Police have a final death toll for the devastating fire in west London.
- They say they found 70 bodies, and are also counting a stillborn baby.
- It has taken almost five months for officers to reach the figure.
Police investigating the Grenfell Tower fire have announced what they believe is a final death toll from the disaster – 71.
In a press release published Thursday morning, the Metropolitan Police said they have scoured every flat on every floor of the 24-storey high rise in west London.
After sifting through well in excess of 100 tonnes of debris, officers are “confident” they have found all the human remains they are likely to find in the tower, which caught fire five months ago in the early hours of June 14.
Coroners – the officials charged with handling unusual deaths – have formally identified the remains of 70 people presented to them by the police.
A baby who was delivered stillborn hours after its mother escaped the building is also being counted as a casualty of the fire.
Officers say they initially thought the toll was higher – around 80 – but later discovered that some people who they feared were inside when the building caught fire were actually not at home.
Describing the search itself, Met Police commander Stuart Cundy told reporters: “We have done a fingertip search, forensic search of every single flat, every communal area.
“We have pushed the boundaries, we worked with experts and specialists around the world because we need the families to have absolute confidence.”
Police say their best tool was CCTV and police body-worn cameras to count people out of the burning building, which only had one exit.
Officers verified 223 people leaving Grenfell Tower, and therefore believe that there were 293 people inside when the fire began.
The Met described an extensive process of elimination which allowed them to whittle down a list of around 400 potential missing people to the 223 escapees and 71 dead.
Duplicates, typos and frauds
Many reports were duplicates, they said, including one person who had been reported missing 46 separate times.
Some reports were of people who were away from home, and some were eventually located abroad. Other reports were duplicates which used minor variations in the spelling of names, which could be eliminated.
They also said some people lied to them about having relatives who had vanished in the fire, in the hope of claiming relief money.
One man has already pleaded guilty to fraud, while police say eight more cases are being investigated.
The release concluded that “Police are now confident [those reported missing] have all been traced and accounted for.”
In June, just two weeks after the fire, police warned that it would take them many months to reach a total.
At a media briefing attended by Business Insider, a senior officer said there might not be a final figure until 2018.
Today’s statement shows that the work appears to have been completed slightly faster than anticipated.
Five months on, Grenfell Tower itself still stands as a stark monument in west London, visible for miles around.
Last month scaffolding was erected around it to cover up some evidence of the fire damage.