Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 17:58 UK

Tower block blaze victims named


Eyewitness footage of Camberwell fire

Police have named five of the six victims killed in a fire at a tower block in south-east London.

Helen Udoaka, 34, and her three-week-old daughter Michelle died following the fire which broke out at the 12-storey Lakanal House in Camberwell.

The other three named are Dayana Francisquini, 26, Filipe Francisquini, 3, and Catherine Hickman, 31. The sixth person remains unidentified.

Police are treating Friday's fire as suspicious until a cause is determined.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the sixth victim was believed to be a four-year-old girl.

A firefighter remains in hospital, though police said his condition was not thought to be serious.


The Met's Chief Supt Wayne Chance said the fire began in a flat on the ninth floor, but that all those who died were on the 11th floor, with other floors also affected.

Map of fire scene

"It's a very complex, very large enquiry," he added.

London mayor Boris Johnson described the fire on the Sceaux Gardens Estate as an "horrendous incident".

"It does seem suspicious that the fire was spreading so quickly and clearly that will be one of the prime subjects for the investigation," he said.

"Obviously we will want to know whether... the fire was set, whether there was any malign intent."

There would also be an investigation into whether there were any "design failures" in the building, he said.

Safety questions

The naming of five of the victims came as attention focused on whether escape routes and fire prevention measures were adequate at the building, which had a single central staircase.

I heard a woman screaming on the floor below. She had two babies and the smoke was like a chimney
Charles Douglas

Several residents said the complicated layout of the flats made the evacuation difficult while onlookers described seeing those trapped inside screaming for help.

About 30 people had to be rescued from the building as the fire spread. Another 120 were evacuated.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) assistant commissioner Nick Collins said it was "one of the most significant fires in some time in terms of lives lost".

More than 100 firefighters tackled the incident, some of who suffered from heat exhaustion, he added.

'Seems suspicious'

Nick Collins, Fire Brigade: "We're reasonably confident it started on the ninth floor"

Resident Charles Douglas, 56, was trapped in the building when the fire took hold.

He said: "It was pandemonium.

"I heard a woman screaming on the floor below. She had two babies and the smoke was like a chimney.

"She wanted to jump but I told her to stay there otherwise they would have killed themselves."

Lincent Johnson, 48, who lives across the road, said he could smell the fire from his house.

"When I came out I could see people screaming through the windows, waiting to get out," he said.

"It started as a small fire but it seemed to spread within minutes."

Supt Chance said that two of the named victims had not been formally identified, but that police were confident enough of who they were, to name them as Helen Udoaka and Catherine Hickman.

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