Miss Ivy Hodge, 56, put the kettle on – and that’s all she remembers

June 1968

Ronan Point

More than 150 people, including constructional engineers, architects and building and other expert witnesses attended the opening of the inquiry into Ronan Point disaster in east London last month.

Hugh Griffiths QC, recorder of Cambridge, is the chairman of the three-man tribunal invesigating the partial collapse of the “factory built” 22-storey tower block, which killed five people on 16 May.

Edward Evelyn, QC for the Treasury Solicitor, said expert evidence would show that the explosion was a gaseous one and not an intensive one of high explosive cause. One of the witnesses was Miss Ivy Hodge, 56, who was brought from Poplar Hospital to give evidence. Miss Hodge lived at flat No 90 where the initial explosion took place.

Miss Hodge said: “I was woken between 2.30am and 2.45am by a noise. It sounded like a drill. I had never heard that noise before. I am a pretty heavy sleeper. It was a continuous noise.”

She said that she went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. “I don’t remember hearing the noise then. If filled the kettle up and I don’t remember any more until I was on the floor.” Miss Hodge said that she had a keen sense of smell but at no time during the night or when she went to boil the kettle did she smell any gas. KF Goodfellow QC, counsel for Taylor Woodrow-Anglian Ltd, the constructors and their subsidiary, Phillips Consultants Ltd, said that the walls of the flat were not designed to withstand an explosion with that degree of violence. He said no other buildings were required under existing bylaws and regulations to withstand such severe pressure.

Walter Robinson, a driver of Borough Road, said a second explosion came about 20 seconds after the first. Another driver, Edward Latchford, also of Borough Road, said that after the first explosion the top of the block “crumbled like a pack of cards. Pieces came down. They just crumbled into one another. The whole wall was still there until the second explosion. Then the window came out and several seconds later the walls started to come away. The first bang was a high pitched noise. I put my hands over my ears because it made them ring.”

A former pipe fitter’s mate. Charles Pike, 49, of Thorne Close, Canning Town, said that he had visited Miss Hodge several times after installing a gas cooker at her flat and at no time smelled gas.

While Mr Pike was giving evidence a woman was led from the room in tears.

The gas cooker that had been recovered from Miss Hodge’s 18th floor flat was wheeled into the hearing and Mr Pike was recalled to explain in detail how he installed the cooker.