A fraudster who masqueraded as a former Grenfell Tower resident to dodge a jail sentence for burglary has been jailed for six years for his “repulsive” crimes.
Derrick Peters, 58, was put up in the Park Grand hotel in Paddington, west London, after claiming to have lost his friend and all his possessions in the blaze on June 14 last year.
He 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.
Peters was arrested on August 10 after burgling a nearby flat, stealing jewellery 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 October 16.
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 that left 72 people dead.
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 on Friday. 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” to the judge.
“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”.
“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 continued.
“You advanced bogus mitigation which was designed to, and which did, spare you from condign punishment.
“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 73 for dishonesty offences including fraud and theft.
He is the sixth person to be sentenced for fraud relating to the Grenfell fire and received the longest prison term yet.
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.
“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,” he said.
“It is pouring salt on the wounds of the bereaved and ex-Tower residents to know that the deaths and trauma we have had to endure is seen simply as an opportunity for others to profit and exploit.”
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.
The judge told Peters: “The facts of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy are well known. The effect on those who died, their families and friends, cannot be imagined by those who were not directly affected.
“Members of the public, indeed the nation, were shocked by the dreadful event.
“The fact that the unscrupulous sought to enrich themselves with accommodation, room service and money is the more shocking in the light of the outpouring of grief and sympathy that followed the disaster.”