Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said potential criminal offences being looked at

Police investigating the Grenfell Tower fire have not ruled out charging various parties with manslaughter, as the detective superintendent leading the investigation warned that the forensic search andrecovery process might last until the end of this year.

DS Fiona McCormack said the fire was started – not deliberately – in a fridge freezer, a Hotpoint FF175BP, which was not understood to have been the subject of a product recall. The fire spread with “unexpected speed” and the investigation would attempt to establish why that happened, she added.

Police will examine the construction of the building, including the refurbishment, and the aluminium panelling, along with the entire exterior of the building.

“What that means is the aluminium composite tiles, the insulation behind it, how the tiles were fixed to the building as well as how it was installed. Our tests will look at each aspect individually as well as how they how all worked together as part of the building’s cladding.

“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started.”

McCormack said the initial tests on equivalent aluminium composite tiles failed the safety tests. “Such are the safety concerns with the outcome of these tests we have immediately shared the data with the Department for Communities and Local Government who are already sharing that information with local councils throughout the country.

“We will identify and investigate any criminal offence and, of course, given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations.”

McCormack confirmed that police were already seizing “relevant information from a number of organisations”, but that details could not be divulged at the present time, “because, if we find that there are individuals or organisations that have committed offences, we must be able to prosecute without prejudice to any proceedings”.

To aid the search and recovery process, a lift is due to be installed on the outside of the building next week, although McCormack warned of the “terrible reality” that some victims may never be found or identified.

“What we are determined to do is fully and impartially go where the evidence takes us.

“We want to provide the best possible answers for all those who have been so deeply affected by this tragedy,” she added.