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Pub Chef Receives Sentence After Shepherd’s Pie Kills Woman

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Pub Chef Receives Sentence After Shepherd’s Pie Kills Woman

A woman was killed and 31 people became ill with food poisoning after eating a chef's shepherd's pie.

John Croucher, the chef at the Crewe Arms in Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire, UK, was catering for a harvest festival, but failed to check the meat was cooked properly.

The shepherd's pie affected everyone who ate it. Credit: HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd
The shepherd's pie affected everyone who ate it. Credit: HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd

Elizabeth Neuman, a 92-year-old parishioner, was unable to stop vomiting after eating the shepherd's pie at the Holy Trinity church lunch on 8 October 2018.

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She was rushed to hospital but died from an internal haemorrhage.

A further 31 people were made ill by the pie, with only three vegetarian diners leaving the supper unscathed.

Croucher had partially cooked the meat before placing it in cold water and a fridge overnight, contravening fundamental food safety guidance.

He then failed to check the temperature of the meal before serving it and ultimately ended up serving meat that had not been properly cooked.

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Croucher, 40, told Reading Crown Court on Tuesday (30 November) that he had been rushing, but the experience had made him a better chef.

According to The Telegraph, he told the court: "I really hate to say it but I think I was rushed. I was rushing. Remorse is an understatement.

"This is something I will never forget. Because of it, I am a better chef and it is just a shame the cost of it had to be what it was."

Croucher said he is now a 'better chef'. Credit: Alamy
Croucher said he is now a 'better chef'. Credit: Alamy
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The Crewe Arms now has a five-star food hygiene rating, but at the time of the incident it only had a one-star rating, and Judge Sarah Campbell refused to believe it was a 'one-off mistake'.

Prosecutor Carl May-Smith pointed out how food safety officers in the local area had been trying to help outlets with low hygiene ratings.

He said: "The pub even had the advantage of coaching from the local authority.

"Inspections before the offence showed there was no food safety management system in place."

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Croucher, who no longer works at the Crewe Arms, said the team had worked hard to improve the hygiene rating following the incident.

He said: "A horrible, horrible circumstance happened and it's something you take with you. I now second guess and third guess everything.

"I never had a coaching session when I was working for the Crewe Arms.

"After the incident we all worked very hard to get the Crewe Arms five stars. We went for it and we obtained it. We got very good marks."

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Judge Campbell handed Croucher a four-month suspended sentence after he admitted a charge of contravening food regulations.

The pub's owner and landlord, Neil Billingham, 54, previously admitted to three count of contravening food regulations and was fined £9,000 ($11,975) plus £1,000 ($1,331) court costs, and his company The Bobcat Pub Co was fined nearly £3,000 ($3,992).

Judge Campbell said: "A healthy and well person died of a gastrointestinal haemorrhage induced from vomiting. No sentence I can pass can reflect the loss caused to the family.

"The Crewe Arms is an important pub to the local community. I have read many references from members of the community, who all say Billingham worked hard to maintain the support of the community, including Ms Neuman's daughter.

"They have all said that this was a one-off mistake but looking at the evidence this was not a one-off mistake. The pub should have been taking steps to be improving. Inspections in 2015 gave it three stars and in 2017 gave it only one star."

Featured Image Credit: Hyde News & Pictures Ltd/Alamy

Topics: UK News, Food And Drink, Crime

Jake Massey
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