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Galloway calls for probe into double death arson

PUBLISHED: 14:17 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 14:06 05 October 2010

A FULL investigation into last Sunday morning’s arson in East London in which a teenager and her gran died is being called for by George Galloway. The MP and the Fire Brigades Union have both voiced worries about the delayed response times to the blaze at Bethnal Green, blaming financial cuts three years ago which reduced emergency cover in the district by half

By Mike Brooke

A FULL investigation into last Sunday morning’s arson in East London in which a teenager and her gran died is being called for by MP George Galloway.

The Bethnal Green & Bow MP and the Fire Brigades Union have both voiced worries about the delayed response times to the blaze, blaming financial cuts made three years ago which reduced emergency cover in the district by half.

The two who died, 17-year-old Shannen Vickers and her 57-year-old grandmother Pauline Adams, were overcome by smoke which filled their fifth floor flat at Malmesbury House in Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green, at 5.45am, just minutes before rescue arrived.

“Two women needlessly died in their own homes,” said Galloway.

“My understanding is that there was a possibly-crucial delay in reaching the blaze because the one remaining fire crew had been called to another incident.

“There now needs to be a review of whether fire cover is sufficient to save lives.”

He added: “We warned three years ago that cuts at Bethnal Green from two to one fire-engine would put lives at risk—but our warnings were ignored in what was just a ruthless cost-cutting exercise.”

CREW DIVERTED

The Bethnal Green crew was tackling a blaze two streets away at the time, a motor-scooter that had been set alight. Police have linked the two incidents.

Crews from other fire-stations across East London, from Whitechapel, Bow and as far out as Leytonstone, were sent to Malmesbury House before they could get there.

The first arrived in five or six minutes, the Fire Brigade later confirmed. A direct call-out from Bethnal Green would have been no more than two minutes, say local fire officers.

The union’s London Regional Secretary Joe MacVeigh told the East London Advertiser: “Seconds can make a difference to life and death.

“There certainly would have been more chance of rescue if the crew had been able to get there immediately. It’s the terrible proof of our warning about cuts.”

TWO ARRESTS

Two youths have been committed to the Old Bailey on double murder charges following their court appearance at Romford yesterday (Wednesday) and were remanded in custody to appear on April 15.

A police witness appeal has been started in East London for anyone who may have been in or near Cyprus Street between 5.30 and 6am on Sunday.

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