Uncovering the failures of Grenfell

In a harrowing new book, Peter Apps details the timeline of errors that caused the tower block fire and killed 72 people
November 3, 2022
Show Me the Bodies: How We Let Grenfell Happen
Peter Apps (RRP: £19.99)
Buy on Bookshop.org
Buy on Bookshop.org
Prospect receives commission when you buy a book using this page. Thank you for supporting us.

When the architect Sam Webb warned a senior civil servant about the risk of a catastrophic fire if he did not review the UK’s building safety regulations, he was allegedly told: “Show me the bodies”. That’s the title of Peter Apps’s book on the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people on 14th June 2017. His chapters alternate between a harrowing account of every hour of the fire that raged in the high-rise social housing block and a detailed examination of the many opportunities missed to prevent the disaster. Apps charts the failures of a government with an ideological commitment to deregulation, the profiteering of Arconic—the company that supplied the cladding—and the fatal errors of the London Fire Brigade, which advised residents to “stay put” when they could have escaped.

Apps, who is deputy editor of Inside Housing, tells the tragic story of those who lost their lives and loved ones. We read about the final call 26-year-old Italian architect Gloria Trevisan made to her mother before she died with her partner Marco Gottardi; about Nicholas Burton, who has spoken to fire departments around the world about the tragedy after his wife Pily became its final victim. “No one could sit with Rania and not smile,” said Rasha Ibrahim of her sister who died with her two daughters.

Apps writes that Grenfell “tells us something about… the priority our political and economic system places on human life—especially when those lives are likely to be poor, immigrant and from ethnic minority backgrounds.” He has done their stories justice with this urgent book. But the survivors and families are still waiting for real accountability, which may come with the inquiry report in 2023 and any prosecutions that follow.