A fraudster who masqueraded as a former Grenfell Tower resident to has been jailed for six years for his ‘repulsive’ crimes.
Derrick Peters – who has 40 past convictions for 90 offences – was put up in the Park Grand hotel in Paddington after claiming to have lost his friend and all his possessions in the blaze on 14 June 2017.
The 58-year-old ran up a £40,000 bill while staying in the £192-a-night room, including more than £5,000 spent on food, drink and laundry.
A total of 72 people died in the blaze at Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, London, the worst residential fire in the UK since World War II.
Peters was arrested on 10 August after burgling a flat, stealing jewelry and other items worth around £3,000.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea continued to pay for his room for two months while he was held on remand in Wandsworth prison.
He returned to the hotel having been handed a community order after repeating his Grenfell lies in mitigation to the judge sentencing him at Isleworth Crown Court on 16 October.
The judge, who had no reason to doubt his story, said: ‘How on earth can one even begin to understand what it is like to lose a friend in a tragedy like Grenfell?’
Peters continued the pretence and was even offered a flat meant for genuine victims of the disaster.
However, his story unravelled after Rebecca Ross, a Grenfell survivor whose father Steve Power perished in the fire, confirmed Peters had not lived with them and their three dogs as he had claimed.
Peters pleaded guilty to perverting the court of justice and two counts of fraud at Isleworth Crown Court and was sentenced to six years in jail.
He was also re-sentenced for the original burglary charge.
Judge Robin Johnson told Peters he was sure he had been previously spared jail because of his ‘brazen lie’ about Grenfell.
‘It was designed to pull heart strings. It succeeded, just as the similar lies were providing you with hotel accommodation and money,’ he said.
‘Your conduct from June last year was utterly disgraceful. You cheated and lied for your own ends, trading on others’ misery. There can be little mercy in such a case.’
The judge said Peters’ crimes had reached ‘such depths as any right-minded member of the public would find repulsive’.
And he continued with his judgement:
“Not only did you burgle a person’s house, but when caught you latched on to the same idea that had enriched you for weeks,’ he said.
‘On hearing your mitigation, the sentencing judge was sufficiently moved to spare you, a person who has a long and unenviable criminal record, from prison.’
The court heard Peters has 40 convictions for 90 offences, including 24 for fraud and 73 for theft.
In a statement read in court, Edward Daffarn, a member of the Grenfell United survivors group, said he was left ‘sickened’ by what Peters had done and that such fraud ‘is pouring salt on the wounds of the bereaved’.
He said: ‘It is upsetting beyond words to learn the tragedy of Grenfell Tower is being used by individuals so that they can exploit our misery for their own gain.’
Corrinne Jones described escaping from the tower’s 17th floor with her two young children as ‘one of the most horrific things that I have experienced”.
‘I find people lying about living in a building where a considerable amount of people died as disrespectful and distasteful,’ she said in a statement.
Peters is to be sentenced for fraud relating to the Grenfell fire and received the longest prison term yet.
Most recently, couple Elaine Douglas, 51, and Tommy Brooks, 52, respectively, in July after falsely claiming they lived on the 19th floor of the tower.
They were housed in hotel accommodation and received financial support – Douglas to the value of £67,125.35 and Brooks amounting to £58,396.89 – because of their lies.
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