By Vinny Del Giudice
On Aug. 15, 1980, a patron ejected from a Soho club returned with a can of gasoline, lit a match and killed 37 people attending a farewell party - London's deadliest fire since the Blitz at that time.
"There was very little showing at the front; at the rear, the building was an inferno," according to the website of the Soho fire station. "The entire building and staircases were engulfed in seconds. No one inside stood a chance."
The initial call came into the London Fire Brigade at about 3:30 a.m., and proved to be a "bad address" - a location off the Soho station's fireground.
Firefighters were then directed to the club on Denmark Place, which was frequented by South Americans and Spaniards, many of whom were illegal immigrants.
Euston station leading fireman David Pare recalled: "You could hear people screaming but we couldn't see any flames."
Firefighters assigned to the Green Watch extinguished the fire; Red Watch crews were responsible for recovery of the bodies. The club wasn't licensed.
"We only realized what really happened when we got the fire out and managed to get inside," said a fire brigade spokesman quoted by United Press International.
Initially, London police suspected the fire may have been tied to a dispute between drug gangs or, in a strange twist, feuding hot dog vendors as hot dog carts were stored in a room in the club.
Instead they charged John Thompson, 42, described as a petty thief and drug addict.
After arguing with a barman, Thompson purchased a gallon of gasoline at service station, poured the fuel through a letter slot at the club and set it alight.
He was sentenced to life in prison in May 1981 and died of lung cancer on the 27th anniversary of the blaze.
Colombian Elizabeth Mercado, 30, the guest of honor, jumped from a second story window along with Eduardo Trujillo, 28, also from Colombia.
"Everywhere there was the smell of petrol and very black smoke - plastic dripping from the ceiling of the club," said Trujillo, quoted by the Associated Press.
Many of the dead were found still seated at tables; other tried to flee.
"The fire spread too fast for them," said Ray Baldwin, a divisional fire officer.
Locked doors blocked escape routes from the venue, which went by the names "Rodos" and "Victor Gonzales."
Leading firefighter Pare recalled:
LIST OF DEAD - From the Independent in 2015