A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them. The woman screamed: “Please save my kids” from a bedroom window and neighbours tried to help but were beaten back by flames and were told by police not to attempt a rescue.
“There were lads with aluminium ladders who wanted to get to them but the police were shouting, ‘Stay away, get out of the yard.’ They were saying, ‘You have got to wait until the fire brigade gets here.’ Michelle was standing at the window banging on it – we all saw it – and shouting to save her kids but the police were just below her pushing us out and telling everybody to stay away.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “The senior officer in charge is confident we handled this incident as professionally as possible. In a situation like that you could end up with more deceased bodies than you had in the first place.”
The behaviour of the police kind of reminded me of what happened at the 2002 Mecca Girl's School fire in Saudi Arabia where the polis prevented rescuers from entering the build for fear of coming into contact with women
It has been claimed that Members of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as Mutaween, would not allow the girls to escape or to be saved because they were 'not properly covered', and the mutaween did not want physical contact to take place between the girls and the civil defense forces for fear of sexual enticement, and variously that the girls were locked in by the police, or forced back into the building.
Back in the UK The Samizdata piece goes on to cover the Watts Memorial / Postman's Park:-
The memorial was set up by a Victorian artist, George Frederick Watts, to commemorate those who died saving others. It consists of hand made plaques each bearing the name of a person who sacrificed his or her life and a brief citation. Very quaint they are, with their crowded lettering with the extra-large initial capitals and little swirly plant motifs and curlicues in the corners. Even the names are quaint, laboriously given in full. Police Constables Percy Edwin Cook, Edward George Brown Greenoff, Harold Frank Ricketts and George Stephen Funnell are among them. I wonder what PC Percy Edwin Cook, for instance, who perished when he "Voluntarily descended high tension chamber at Kensington to rescue two workmen overcome by poisonous gas" would have made of his successors in the South Yorkshire force.
Co-incidentally I was reading about Postman's Park earlier today on Caroline's Miscellany. Those who died saving lives are remembered more than a century later.
George Funnell, a 33-year-old ex-soldier turned police constable, was on his beat in Hackney when he noticed a fire in the Elephant and Castle pub on Wick Road. After raising the alarm, he rushed into the burning building: the landlady and two barmaids were still inside. First he brought out the landlady, then one of the barmaids. Now burnt himself, he nonetheless went back in for the third woman.
PC Funnell reached the woman, and directed her to a back door. However, he himself was overcome by the heat and smoke. The woman escaped into the street, but by the time rescuers reached Funnell he was unconscious and burned on the face, neck and arms. Eleven days later, on 2 January 1900, he died of his injuries.
The inquest jury commended Funnell and his colleagues for gallant behaviour. The Society for the Protection of Life from Fire gave awards to those colleagues; during the ceremony, Mr G B Fordham commented that "he died the death of a thoroughly brave and sincere man" giving his life for three women who were strangers to him. Funnell's funeral was attended by several hundred police officers and firemen, as well as local people. A memorial committee was set up to support his wife and two children. His memorial plaque reads:
GEORGE STEPHEN FUNNELL - POLICE CONSTABLE - DEC 22 1899 - IN A FIRE AT THE ELEPHANT & CASTLE, WICK ROAD, HACKNEY WICK, AFTER RESCUING TWO LIVES, WENT BACK INTO THE FLAMES, SAVING A BARMAID AT THE RISK OF HIS OWN LIFE.
Beware the snivelling creatures that Health & Safety has turned us into.