The man who filmed a burning cardboard model of Grenfell Tower said it was a joke between friends, and was not at the expense of the victims of the blaze.
Paul Bussetti told Westminster Magistrates Court the footage was taken at a bonfire party in November last year and was considered “funny” by those involved. Laughter can be heard in the background of the video.
The 47-year-old is on trial accused of sending a “grossly offensive” video on WhatsApp and causing footage of a “menacing character” to be uploaded on YouTube.
Footage of the effigy prompted online outrage and has been branded “vile” by a relative of one of the victims of the disaster.
Sandra Ruiz, who lost her 12-year-old niece in the fire, has said the video made a “mockery of her death, to see people making a mockery of that is vile.”
Mr Bussetti said it was “certainly not the case” that the figures drawn on the cardboard model of the building were meant to represent the 72 victims of the fire.
Prosecutors said the use of black and brown cardboard figures were “racist”, however Mr Bussetti said they were caricatures of his friends, and one particular black-clad figure was a “ninja”.
“I found it funny because the people in the cardboard box were us. That's just banter that's going on,” he said.
He shared the footage of the effigy with around 20 friends and intended it would go no further. When it went viral he deleted the video from the chat groups.
Mr Bussetti said he did not originally tell police in two interviews the people in the tower were his friends because he was “scared” and “nervous”.
If convicted he could face a maximum 15 weeks in prison or a fine. The trial continues.