HARLEY FACADES’ former design manager revealed that some emails, documents and drawings relating to the refurbishment ‘appear to have been lost forever’ after a laptop was wiped.

The second phase began with hearings delayed due to witnesses asking that ‘anything they say will not be used in criminal prosecutions’. This was granted and later extendedAfter resuming post COVID-19 suspensionthe first week heard a senior fire engineer ‘did not raise the need for any proposed cladding system to have a separate fire safety assessment’, while another was sent the cladding design report but didn't view it. 

Two fire consultants gave ‘no thought’ to evacuating disabled residents; Studio E and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea clashed over fire safety; another consultant ‘had no clue that cladding was part of the plans’and a Studio E architect said no drawing records were kept and aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding was the ‘cheaper option’.

Rydon contracts manager Simon Lawrence admitted it ‘overlooked’ a key document ‘regarding the fire hazards of certain cladding materials’ and relied on other companies to check subcontractor work; admitted it ‘did not check’ the ‘expertise’ of Studio E; admitted it ‘pocketed’ £126,000 from the switch to ACM; denied giving assurances about ACM not burning ‘at all’; and called residents ‘rebels’ and ‘persistent and aggressive’.

There was ‘no evidence’ Rydon employees had responded to emails ‘seeking clarification on cladding safety’; and Rydon project manager Simon O’Connor admitted he ‘did not know’ about nor was 'familiar' with fire safety regulations or building regulations, and was ‘unaware’ of some responsibilities ‘as it was his first’ such jobThen, final site manager David Hughes believed Rydon had been ‘quite thorough’ in checking work quality.

Towards the end of the first period of hearings, refurbishment director Stephen Blake gave evidence, and the inquiry heard that Rydon was asked for a ‘quick and dirty’ costing for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, and was ‘informally advised’ it was first choice for the job ahead of the end of procurement.

He then said he had been ‘haunted’ by the ‘lack of scrutiny’ that the cladding and window designs were given, before two of the site managers stated they had ‘assumed’ window insulation was fire resistant. Just before the inquiry paused until September, internal issues at Rydon were revealed, as one site manager was described internally as ‘a chancer who wants to do as little as possible’.

The inquiry resumed on 7 September during August, and its first day saw Rydon’s commercial manager state that the company ‘struggled’ to find cladding specialists for the refurbishment of the tower. Last week, Harley’s owner Ray Bailey said that he did not know that Celotex insulation was flammable, and accused the company of ‘misleading’ his firm.

Recently, it was revealed that his 25 year old son was hired to project manage the Grenfell refurbishment, while he had also called for a full combustibles ban, and most recently Harley staff continued to testify, with revelations including that no technical manager was in place that was qualified to advise on fire performance, and that an estimating error was made about costs of cladding.

ITV News has now reported on the continued evidence given by Daniel Anketell-Jones, who had been the design manager for the company on the refurbishment. It was revealed that ‘some emails, documents and design drawings’ relating to the refurbishment ‘appear to have been lost forever after being wiped from a laptop’, with Mr Anketell-Jones stating he erased his work computer ‘of all files’ after agreeing to keep the device despite leaving the company.

He stated that he made the ‘assumption’ that his work would remain on the server at Harley, ‘which it did not’, and he also denied a claim that he had arranged for his email file to be deleted from the company’s internal systems. Mr Anketell-Jones commented: ‘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.’

This came after Mr Bailey said he believed that every Harley employee that worked on the project was ‘able to pass on emails in the days following’ the fire in June 2017, except for Mr Anketell-Jones. His witness statement read: ‘As for Daniel Anketell-Jones, 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.’

When asked about this by inquiry counsel Kate Grange, Mr Anketell-Jones responded: ‘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.’

His own witness statement read: ‘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. This would have included emails, documents, design drawings, calculations. This would mainly have been emails, as most of the working information was kept on the server.

‘Most of the information on the laptop would probably have related to 10 Trinity Square as I spent a lot of time working from site where access to the server wasn’t as easy, so 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.’