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Five men detained over Grenfell Tower effigy burning

Footage of a cardboard model being burnt at a Bonfire Night party has provoked near unanimous disgust

At least 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower disaster on June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
At least 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower disaster on June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Five men have been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after a video was posted online mocking the victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster. The suspects handed themselves into a south London police station on Monday night following the acts condemned by British Prime Minister Theresa May as “utterly unacceptable."

Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Metropolitan Police’s Grenfell Tower investigation team, said the video would be “fully investigated” to see if any hate crime offences were committed.

Apparently recorded at a private Bonfire Night celebration, the video shows a large cardboard cut out of a building with Grenfell Tower written on it being put on fire in the garden of a house. Figures cut out of brown paper were pasted in windows of the structure.

A pole with the cross of St George, the English flag that is frequently hijacked by nationalists and the far-right in the country, is visible in the background.


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As the cardboard model burns, voices can be heard saying, “Help me, help me!” and “Jump out the window”. Another person says: “Stay in your flat, we are coming to get you," referring to the instructions given by the London Fire Brigade on the night to residents of the tower, where at least 72 people died on June 14.

Further in the video, one voice says: “That’s what happens when they don’t pay their rent”, then another says, “All the little ninjas getting it." When the model finally collapses into the fire, a cheer is heard from the crowd.

No one has been identified yet, but the face of one of the two men who torched the "tower" is visible. The footage was initially shared on WhatsApp before being posted on social media, where it has been condemned.

“We are disgusted and shocked at the inhumanity and callousness of those involved in this video,” campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell said in a statement.

“This was an unnecessary sickening act of hate against those who, through no fault of their own, have experienced the worst since June 14, 2017.

“This is clearly a hate crime, and as a society we should never tolerate these types of blatant acts of hatred.”

London fire commissioner Dany Cotton, who attended the scene of the tragedy, said: “This is an appalling and disturbing video.

“To intentionally use and mock the Grenfell Tower fire in this way will cause deep pain and offence to the bereaved, survivors, the local community and all of the emergency services who will never forget that night. It cannot be justified on any level.”

Mrs May tweeted: “To disrespect those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower, as well as their families and loved ones, is utterly unacceptable.”

Home secretary Sajid Javid said that it was “disgusting, shameful, behaviour. These people are a disgrace.”

He paid tribute to the survivors of the Grenfell tragedy, tweeting that they “have acted with unbelievable dignity and deserve the utmost respect”.

The housing minister James Brokenshire said that the video was “utterly disgusting & those responsible should be ashamed of their actions which are beneath contempt”.

Commander Cundy said: “I am frankly appalled by the callous nature of the video posted online. To mock that disaster in such a crude way is vile.”

He appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

Updated: November 6, 2018 01:13 PM