Greater Manchester Police satisfied with initial handling into Oldham's Bismark House Mill fire
Report by Granada Reports journalist, Emma Sweeney
Greater Manchester Police has said it is satisfied with the initial way it handled the aftermath into a fire at Bismark House Mill in Oldham.
The force's Professional Standards Branch was asked to look into the incident after human remains were found by demolition workers two and a half months after the blaze.
Since then, two more bodies have been found and although formal identification is yet to take place, police believe four Vietnamese nations were inside the mill at the time.
The men have been named as Cuong Van Chu, 39, Uoc Van Nguyen, 31, Duong Van Nguyen, 29, and Nam Thanh Le, 21.
In a statement, GMP said: “Due to previous contact relating to the fire and missing persons, this incident was referred to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch for review.
''During the review of GMP’s policing response, it was established that there was no requirement to make a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
It comes as it is believed one line of enquiry being investigated by detectives is whether part of the mill could have been used to farm cannabis - another is the possibility that human trafficking could have played a part in the tragedy.
A former detective with GMP, John Piekos, says there is potential the human trafficking and cannabis lines of enquiry could be linked.
He said: "As soon as I learned that there was likely to have been a significant cannabis factory in a commercial setting like this, my immediate thought runs to modern slavery.
"And it does so because that whole crop needs to be very carefully looked after, and it's a very valuable crop, and the people who look after it are usually paid nothing - they're modern slavery victims, and they cost nothing.
"They can do that job for you and you can get a maximum yield out of it."
John says he is concerned the emergency services seemingly did not try to understand more about the fire at the time.
They did not carry out a search of the premises until the first body was discovered by demolition workers two and a half months after the fire.
Meanwhile, the potential this could be linked to human trafficking has forced a spotlight on the UK's criminal underworld.
Thousands of modern day slaves are smuggled into the UK each year - many on the promise of safe and legal work. In reality, they become indebted to the criminal gangs who brought them over and are forced to work illegally.
Two men, whose identities ITV News is protecting, are from originally Vietnam - one was promised a better life over here, while another said he had no choice.
Both were locked away and made to work on cannabis farms without pay for 16 hours a day.
One said: "They locked me in an abandoned house - and made me work. There was always a guy watching over us and I had to work from morning to night.
"I slept on a sheet on the floor in a bathroom, not a bedroom, a bathroom.
"I was so terrified but if I didn't work they would beat me up or even kill me - they said that - so I had no choice... work or die."
"It was similar for me," the other added. "At first I didn't know how to take care of the plants, so I did it wrong, so the boss beat me because he said I'm wasting his money."
Both men managed to escape from their captors and are now being supported by the Medaille Trust, who provide supported safe house beds for victims of modern slavery.
They say they have "vaguely" followed the story of the mill fire, but it is too painful to think about the parallels between their stories and the missing men.
GMP Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Jackson said: “Most importantly, our thoughts remain with the potential family members in Vietnam. Search, recovery and investigative work is ongoing to find them the answers they deserve.
“Due to previous contact relating to the fire and missing persons, this incident was referred to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch for review. During the review of GMP’s policing response, it was established that there was no requirement to make a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
Leon Parkes, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “The thoughts of everyone at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service are with those who have tragically lost their lives, and their family and friends. This incident has deeply saddened us all.
“Our crews responded to the fire over four days. Given the intensity of the fire and concerns about the structural integrity of the building, we could not risk sending firefighters inside, so they fought the fire from the outside in line with the correct safety procedures. There was no indication at any point that people were inside.
“We’re confident that our operational crews responded to this incident in the best way possible with the information they had at the time and given how dangerous this building was. However, with the devastation that has happened here, we want to be absolutely certain that there was nothing we could have done differently. That’s why we have proactively decided to gather all information on how we managed this incident and have asked for it to be independently reviewed.
“We’ve been fully supportive of Greater Manchester Police’s investigation, and we have brought in specialist teams who are working tirelessly at the site to support this important work.”
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