Important design details, documents and emails relating to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment have suspiciously been "lost forever" after being wiped from a laptop belonging to the design manager working on Grenfell's cladding.
An inquiry into the Grenfell disaster has been ongoing since August 2017, with the main aim being to find justice for the 72 lives claimed by the fire. Phase 2 of the inquiry is examining the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition that allowed the fire to spread.
Design manager Daniel Anketell-Jones of Harley Facades, the cladding company that worked on Grenfell until March 2016, told the hearing that he deleted all the files of his work computer after agreeing to keep the device, despite leaving the firm. While it's normal protocol to backup files rather than being kept solely on one computer, the electrical and mechanical engineering graduate told the inquiry on Monday that he made the "assumption" his work would remain on the Harley Facades server.
These vitally important documents, details and emails were not backed up by anyone, showing complete disregard for good working practices and extreme incompetence. Anketell-Jones also denied a claim that he arranged for his email file to be deleted from the firm's internal systems, saying: "I believed everything would be kept on the company server because all the laptops just attached into the server and all the emails were retained on there."
Ray Baileys, Harley Facades' managing director, said that every other employee who worked on the project was able to pass on emails in the days following the June 2017 fire in West London, other than Anketell-Jones. "As for Daniel Anketell-Jones," he said, "he left Harley some months before the fire. By that stage, he had both deleted all of his Harley-related emails from his laptop and had arranged with our service provider to remove his email file from our systems."
Asked about this by inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC, Anketell-Jones said: "I don't know what he means by that. I didn't arrange for that to happen. I don't think I would have the authority or the security to do that... In the past, where I'd had a laptop break or replaced it, it was just a simple case of connecting it back up to the server and you had all your emails instantly once again. The material that was deleted would have related to all Harley projects I had worked on during my time at the company including the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project."
He added: "I would have kept offline files on the laptop for easy access. I doubt there would have been any files relating to Grenfell as these would have been on the server."
Following the disaster, government figures from August have shown that Grenfell-style cladding had not been removed from over 80% of private-sector buildings and nearly 50% of social sector buildings.
The report finds only 1/3 of all high-rise buildings with ACM cladding (the same type as Grenfell) have had it removed, despite the government deadline being June of this year. The progress into removing the dangerous cladding for other buildings has been unacceptably slow in over three years after Grenfell.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry examining the circumstances into the fire continues, with justice still needed for those who lost their lives three years ago.
Find out more about the ongoing inquiry here.