LONDON — After a painstaking five-month investigation, the British police concluded on Thursday that 71 people died in the Grenfell Tower disaster, somewhat fewer than they had originally estimated.
Victoria King, 71, and her daughter Alexandra Atala, 40, were the last victims to be formally identified by the coroner, the police said in a statement. A stillborn baby, whose mother escaped the building, was counted among the victims.
At the time of the fire, the London Metropolitan Police said that at least 80 people had died in the blaze, which tore through the 24-story tower on June 14. But officers now believe all the victims have been recovered and identified.
The authorities received thousands of phone calls reporting missing residents. Lists compiled by volunteers suggested that the victims numbered in the hundreds, but it eventually became clear that many people had been listed under multiple spellings of their names.
“After the fire was finally put out I entered Grenfell Tower and was genuinely concerned that due to the intensity and duration of the fire, that we may not find, recover and then identify all those who died,” Commander Stuart Cundy, who is in charge of operations at the tower, said in a statement.
The search teams, which included forensic anthropologists, archaeologists and odontologists, “have pushed the boundaries of what was scientifically possible,” he added.
Amanda Turner, one of the volunteers who have been working since July to identify the missing, said that her group’s list had 82 names, but that not all of them had been verified by survivors.
“I don’t think the numbers are in the hundreds, as it was initially suspected, but there could be more than 71,” she said. “I still think it’s too early to say. The Met should have waited until they completed the whole search operation.”
Detectives have also analyzed footage from CCTV and police body cameras, which they believe to be the most accurate way to determine the number of people who escaped from the tower. Footage shows that 223 people left the building after the fire started.
A criminal investigation into the factors that led to the fire’s rapid spread is continuing, and Scotland Yard has said that it would consider individual as well as corporate manslaughter charges.
A public inquiry will be conducted in two phases, looking at how the fire started and spread; how the building was designed and refurbished; and how emergency services and the local council responded.
“The human cost and terrible reality of what took place at Grenfell Tower affects so many people. Our search operation and ongoing investigation is about those people,” Commander Cundy said. “Our criminal investigation is continuing, and we are determined to do all we can to find the answers that so many people so desperately want.”