Mrs Wiles awoke and noticed one side of her flat was completely missing …

June 1968

Ronan Point remembered

A nightwatchman, George MacArthur, gave the inquiry into Ronan Point an eyewitness account of the disaster, which occurred on 16 May. Mr MacArthur was about 15 yards from the block, climbing some stairs to a canteen, when he heard a loud explosion. Then he heard a crackling like rifle fire and realised the block was going to start tumbling down.

He told the inquiry: “As bits started coming down I thought of getting away from it. I ran round to the back of the canteen and I could still hear a masses of concrete coming down with a continued roaring noise.”

He said he noticed what looked like smoke coming from the fourth or fifth floor from the top and then heard a second explosion.

Mrs Brenda Cusack, who lived on the seventh floor of the block, told the inquiry how she was awakened by a rumbling noise and then heard an explosion. The rumbling started again and there was another big explosion. “We thought the lift was falling to the bottom of the shaft,” she said.

Mrs Jacqueline Wiles, who lived with her husband David on the 18th floor, said she was awakened by what she thought was thunder. She saw flames and noticed one side of the flat was completely missing.

Miss Ivy Hodge, who lived in flat 90 on the south-east corner of the 18th floor, where the first explosion appeared to have taken place, said she remembered filling the kettle with water and then looking for some matches on the morning of the incident. But she could not remember striking the match.

Dr John Burgoyne, an explosives expert, said: “I think it is very likely she did strike a match. It is the last thing she remembers doing before she lost consciousness. It may well be that she does not remember striking the match afterwards.”

Dr Burgoyne also said gas or vapour may have gathered above head level in Miss Hodge’s flat, and this would explain why she had smelt nothing before the explosion.

Parts of her flat, including a store room door, pieces of charred wood and her gas cooker were brought into court for the benefit of explosives experts.

Eric Bunn, a structural engineer employed by the Greater London Council, said he had never heard of a building collapsing because of the removal of one of its structural supports. He said: “It is not something that has occurred to me to take into consideration.”

Mr Bunn said that all the blocks in the Taylor Woodrow Anglian system complied as regards structural stability with the requirements of the London Building (Constructional) bylaws 1952 (together with the subsequent amending bylaws as appropriate) to the satisfaction of the particular district surveyor concerned.