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Here's What We Learned About The Grenfell Fire Investigation From The Latest Police Briefing

"This is one of the most complex recovery operations certainly many of us in the UK have seen," the Met's deputy commissioner said.

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More than a month after the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, many questions around the blaze remain unanswered. Addressing the London Assembly on Thursday, the Metropolitan police's deputy commissioner, Craig Mackie, ran through where the investigation had got to.

This is what we know so far:

1. The number of dead or missing remains at 80

With many local residents stating they fear the death toll is much higher, the Met has stuck to this figure.

"From the work we have done post-incident, we assess that there were 350 people living in Grenfell Tower. That’s based on the 255 who escaped, 14 who were not at home that night for whatever reason, and the figure we’ve used of 80 people dead or missing, who we must presume are dead."

2. 39 victims from the tower have now been formally identified

While Mackie did not know whether there had been remains recovered that had not been identified, he commented that because of the scale and complexity of the operation the team were often dealing with fragments. The latest victim to be identified is 68-year-old Majorie Vital.

He reiterated that the investigation into the fire, and identifying those who perished, was an "absolute priority" for the Met. "Every officer who works on this investigation wants to find answers for families, that’s what’s motivating people. That’s what’s driving them in terms of the work that they are doing."

3. There were 350 people in the tower block on the night

“It is as robust as anything we have at the moment,” the deputy commissioner said when questioned on this figure. The Met police team had managed to piece together the number using multiple and often unusual data records – including fast food delivery orders – he said. "The team are not expecting it to move at all."

“We are not interested in immigration and subletting issues; please if you were there, just tell us," Mackie also reiterated. "That's not what we are here for."

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, local residents had raised fears around the government looking at immigration statuses. The Met police and ministers have made multiple reassurances to residents that this would not be the case.

4. The occupants of 23 flats have still not been contacted

While officers had been able to speak to occupants of 106 flats, 23 remain unaccounted for. Mackie said: "The sad reality is that of the 23 flats that are left we have spoken to no one in those flats, so we must presume people have died and lost their lives in there."

5. London's police officers have never tackled an operation this large

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"This is one of the most complex recovery operations certainly many of us in the UK have seen. The people we are taking advice from, which gives you some idea of the scale and complexity of it, are some of the people who worked on 9/11 and the fall of the towers on 9/11," Mackie explained.

The Met police are sifting through the debris of the tower. Each floor, he said, contains at least 15,000 tonnes of debris, which specialised officers are using finger-tip searches to examine.

"We are working with everyone you’d expect to see. There are anthropologists, orthodontists – you name it, we have them working on that in terms of the specialisms," he told the assembly. "As I said, the only comparable advice particularly we can find is around the challenge of 9/11," Mackie said.

6. There is a huge amount of data for the criminal investigation to examine

Addressing the criminal investigation, running simultaneously to the public inquiry and the recovery operation, Mackie emphasised the huge troves of data that police were recovering.

"It is probably going to be one of the largest and most complex investigations in our history, and we will obviously work alongside the public inquiry in terms of that," he said. "If I can give an example of the the size of it, there has been a lot of talk about different companies and organisations.

"At the moment there is about 60 companies and organisations around that block and everything around it. From one alone we have four terabytes of data: For those not au fait with that, that is 20 million boxes of A4 paper."

There were roughly 200 officers working on the investigation, some of whom were assigned to the identification of victims, he said. There would be at least a hundred witness statements from survivors, he said, as well as roughly 300 from police officers and 600 from firefighters who attended the blaze on that night.

The investigating officers would work through all of that information, he said, and "see where the investigation takes us".

7. They are consulting experts on the criminal proceedings too

Mackie said officers working on the criminal investigation – as with those working on the recovery side of operations – were contacting experts as needed. He said they were speaking to fire safety experts and "a range of other organisations", but this will "change as it goes through the investigation".

"All of those specialists would come in as they are needed," Mackie added.

8. The operation is unlikely to be finished before Christmas

Given the huge scale of the tower and the tragedy, Mackie said that the investigation "will be working through until Christmas time, in terms of working through".

He added: "As I say, at its absolute heart is trying to return and give certainty to those families."

Also, turning to the criminal proceedings, he said he "wouldn’t tie the investigation to a timescale". Later on in the hearing, he again refused to be drawn on the timescale for the investigation in response to a question about criminal charges. "I would be guessing," he said. "I would not want to speculate."

Mackie spoke of the "challenges" that face a modern investigation gathering CCTV, for example. "That's not to negate the work," he continued, "just to say how complex it will be."

9. The public inquiry and criminal investigation will be separate

"In theory they are completely independent," he said. The public inquiry, which is controversially being chaired by retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, should not significantly impact on his officers' work, although their work could be used by Moore-Bick should he deem it necessary to his examination of events.

"At the edges, there is always a read-over between the two," he admitted, citing former public inquiries. The information recovered by the criminal investigation will be made available to the public inquiry, he said, when they ask for that information.

Here’s How Legal Experts Say The Grenfell Inquiry Can Avoid Becoming A Whitewash

Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at

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