Phone operator 'tried to scare' residents into leaving Grenfell Tower

An operator manning the phones on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire tried to "scare" people who were afraid to leave their flats into fleeing as he believed it was their only hope.

Control room officer Peter Duddy revealed he had frequent nightmares following the blaze after dealing with dozens of 999 calls from those trapped in the burning high-rise.

He recalled initially advising callers, including a father with young children, to stay inside their flats, as per usual national policy for high-rise buildings.

At about 2.40am "everything changed", he said, and operators began telling people to get out if they could.

He had never given this sort of advice before, describing it as "totally alien" to him.

In a written statement to the public inquiry, he said: "A lot of people were simply too scared to leave and actually flatly refused to go.

"I was left pretty clueless as to what to do so did the only thing I could think of that might get them to go, I tried to scare them.

"With nothing else left to say, I told people that they had absolutely no other option than to go and if they did not go, they would die in that flat, it was their only chance.

"It may seem pretty strong to have said that but I was left with no choice and the people on the end of the phone certainly had no choice.

Tower block fire in London
Firefighters arriving at Grenfell Tower (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

"I think for some I managed to change their minds and they made all efforts to get out, but I am not sure if they made it or not."

He and fellow operators dealt with a "huge volume" of calls in the following hours, with Mr Duddy saying he distinctly remembered one from a woman who said she was with seven children.

He said: "I tried everything to get her to leave, used all the tactics I could think of but she flatly refused to go.

"It got to the stage where I had no choice but to hang up and move on. I was not going to change her mind. That call has stayed with me."

Tower block fire in London
The fire claimed 72 lives (Rick Findler/PA)

He also remembered finding out on Twitter that a woman who had been told to stay put had died.

He said: "I wondered then, was that me?

"Was I the one who told her to stay where she was?

"In the days after the incident I began having nightmares about what had happened.

"This became fairly frequent."

He added that he had received "fantastic support" following the fire.

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