A likely two-year wait for any charges in the criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire has been described as “extremely frustrating and disheartening”.
Survivors and relatives of those killed in the blaze feel as though they are “in a limbo” as time goes on without people being held to account for what happened, campaign group Grenfell United said.
Seventy-two people died in the huge fire in west London on June 14 2017.
In an announcement on Wednesday evening, the Metropolitan Police said it would be “wrong” not to wait for the final report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the second phase of which is unlikely to begin before the end of this year.
The inquiry’s second part will examine the wider issues surrounding the fire, while the first phase was confined to the night itself.
Scotland Yard said in a statement it is unlikely to submit a file to the Crown Prosecution Service before “the latter part of 2021”.
We wait month after month, our lives on hold, for some kind of justice and progressSurvivor Natasha Elcock
The officer heading the Met’s investigation into the fire, Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner, acknowledged that the wait may be longer than some people had expected, but said police must “ensure all the available evidence is considered”.
But survivor Natasha Elcock said all those left behind “urgently need reassurances from Government that justice and change will come”.
Ms Elcock, chairwoman of Grenfell United, said: “We are living in a limbo with no individuals or organisations being held accountable and it is so painful for all of us who lost loved ones and our homes that night. We wait month after month, our lives on hold, for some kind of justice and progress.
“It is extremely frustrating and disheartening to now be told this will be our way of life for years to come.”
The mother-of-three, who used bathwater to put out flames as their 11th-floor flat started to catch fire, said bereaved families and survivors “know the truth about what happened to us”.
She said: “We know the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower turned our homes into a death trap and we know that people, organisations and institutions that were meant to care for us didn’t and 72 people died. And yet no-one has been held accountable.”
We have always said our investigation will be thorough, exploring all reasonable lines of enquiry and examining all the available evidenceDetective Superintendent Matt Bonner
She added: “It is now 21 months since the fire, thousands of people are still living in homes with dangerous cladding, people in social housing are still being mistreated by landlords and Grenfell families still wait for any kind of justice.”
Mr Bonner said: “We have always said our investigation will be thorough, exploring all reasonable lines of inquiry and examining all the available evidence.
“While the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the police investigation are independent of each other, our timelines are inextricably linked.
“For our investigation to be considered thorough and complete, it must consider all relevant information and it would be wrong not to take into account evidence given to the public inquiry and its final report and findings.
“We are in regular contact with the bereaved families and survivors as well as the wider community, and have informed them of our projected timeline for the investigation.
“I know this is longer than some might have anticipated, but the police must ensure all the available evidence is considered before any file is submitted to the CPS.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said families, survivors and victims will be “distressed” by the delay.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can understand the police wanting to see where the evidence leads in relation to the Grenfell Tower inquiry and of course the police want to make sure there is a proper investigation.
“Hundreds of Met Police officers are currently involved in the investigation and it’s not surprising that the police want to see where the evidence takes them, but it will be distressing for many victims, many survivors.”