‘Desperate’ lit cigarette claim dismissed at Grenfell Tower probe

The owner of Hotpoint, which produces the fridge freezer where the Grenfell Tower fire is believed to have started, has claimed it could have been sparked by a lit cigarette, an inquiry heard.

Whirlpool Corporation is said to be claiming the blaze may not have started electrically, but “by someone throwing something – perhaps a burning cigarette – into the kitchen through the open window”, Rajiv Menon said.

Mr Menon, who represents Behailu Kebede, 45, the occupant of the fourth floor flat where the fire started, called the claim “desperate”, adding that this was “pure speculation”.

Tower block fire in London
Tower block fire in London

He told the public inquiry into the fire: “As far as the theory of the fire having started as a result of something being thrown through the open window is concerned, this is pure speculation, desperate to put it politely.

“There is no evidence in support, it would have been impossible for a cigarette or some other mystery item to have been launched from ground level four floors down and it is equally impossible to imagine how a cigarette or some other mystery item discarded from a flat above could have miraculously entered the kitchen through the open window, let alone set anything in the vicinity alight.”

Whirlpool is said to have made the claim in its closing statement, which has been circulated among lawyers but has not yet been heard by the public inquiry.

Mr Menon said the suggestion was a “transparent attempt by a multinational corporation to try to avoid liability and minimise reputational damage and financial loss”.

INQUIRY Grenfell
INQUIRY Grenfell

Last month, an inquiry expert, Dr John Duncan Glover, concluded that the blaze probably began in the Hotpoint FF175BP in the kitchen of Flat 16.

Whirlpool are the current owners of the Hotpoint brand.

He said it was important that chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick make a finding that the fire started in the fridge freezer so that “as a society we can try to regulate in the interest of public safety”.

Mr Menon added: “The inquiry must set the record straight and unequivocally declare Mr Kebede bears no responsibility indirectly or directly for the outbreak of fire in his kitchen, its spread and its fatal consequences.”

A total of 72 people died as a result of the fire on June 14 last year.

The inquiry is currently hearing closing statements from lawyers representing the bereaved, survivors, and organisations involved with the tower.