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Home / News / Stardust inquests hears nightclub turned into a ‘prison’

Stardust inquests hears nightclub turned into a ‘prison’

The Stardust inquests have heard how the nightclub was turned into a “prison” in which people could not get out of on the night of the deadly blaze.

Lawyers representing families of the 48 people who died in 1981 fire, continued their closing submissions today, and once again argued for the jury to deliver verdicts of unlawful killing.

Counsel Bernard Condon said the victims “who never came home” were real people with hopes and dreams. He said the question to be asked is why did they die?

He told the jury that there had been a whole lot of circumstances that aligned on the night, some worse than others.

He pointed to the lack of fire training for staff, the carpet tiles on the walls, and the locking and obstruction of the emergency exits. He said these contributory factors fitted into the category of unlawful killing.

Mr Condon also said when it came to the condition of the emergency doors on the night, the credibility of doormen “is shot to bits”.

He said the only fixed piece of evidence was that the exit doors were locked at the start of the night, and said there had been no compelling evidence that they had been unlocked.

He said no fire drills were ever held for staff, they had not been trained in how to use fire extinguishers and none were told what to do in the event of a fire.

He said an “awful tragedy” was that there was a fire extinguisher in the west alcove – the area where the fire was first seen inside the club, and said there was a photo showing that it was still there after the fire.

Mr Condon said it was a “challenging photo” when one thinks of the “what ifs”.

He said the consequences of the lack of fire training for staff, was “delay” and that “delay equals death”. “That’s a fact,” he said.

Mr Condon told the jury that the disco on the night was meant to be for over 21s, but that 83% of the patrons were under that age.

He also said that the people who died were “hard-working, decent people” who went on a night out.

He asked why did so many die and asked “what in the name of God” was going on to lead to the accumulation of circumstances which turned the club into a “prison” that people could not get out of.

Earlier, barrister Brenda Campbell, said the means of escape in the club were adequate but were rendered “redundant” by the circumstances of the fire.

She also pointed to earlier evidence of pathologists who said the longer a person is exposed to conditions like the one in the Stardust that night, the greater the damage.

Ms Campbell said time is absolutely crucial and any slowing down is going to cause greater problems for the individual and lead to a greater risk of death.

She said that stains, rumours, lies and mistakes have haunted the families of the victims for decades, some of which took affect even before the “embers of the fire went out”.

She told the jury that we are now “almost there in the Stardust story” and that it was over to them to write the last chapter.

She said it was not about blame, but recording the truth about how “these young people died”.

Ms Campbell said if the jury finds that the rapid spread of the blaze was because of the carpet tiles on the walls, and that the lack of an evacuation plan and the obstruction of emergency xits caused delays to escape and that these “failings” were causative to the deaths that followed, then the conclusion must be that the 48 who died in the Stardust fire, were unlawfully killed.

The inquests continue.

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