A church harvest supper ended in tragedy when a member of the congregation was killed and 31 others were poisoned by an undercooked shepherd’s pie served by the chef at their local pub, it has learned a judge.
Practitioner Elizabeth Neuman, 92, couldn’t stop vomiting after eating the contaminated pie and died, while 31 of her devotees all fell “uncomfortably sick” after sitting down for dinner. the harvest festival.
Only three members of the congregation escaped food poisoning – because they were all vegetarians.
Crewe Arms chef John Croucher told a Reading Crown Court judge he ‘rushed’ which is why wedges were cut into the shepherd’s pie mix.
Croucher, who no longer works at the village pub in Hinton-in-the-Hedges in Northamptonshire, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, after admitting a charge of breaching the food regulations.
He told the court he had been employed to improve standards in the pub’s kitchen, which had a one-star food hygiene rating at the time.
“I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was in a rush. I was rushing, “Croucher said of the October 2018 incident.” A horrible, horrible circumstance has happened and it’s something you take with you. I now guess everything in second and third. “
Croucher, who said he had been a chef for 20 years, added: “The remorse is an understatement. It is something that I will never forget. Because of this I’m a better chef and it’s just a shame the cost must have been what it was. “
The 40-year-old man from Ely, Cambridgeshire, said the pub had “worked very hard” after the incident to raise standards and subsequently received a five-star rating.
Pub owner Neil Billingham, 54, had previously admitted three food law violation charges. Croucher, who was facing one count of food regulation violation, also admitted the charge during his first appearance in Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court on November 25, 2019.
Billingham, of Angel Street, Northampton, was fined £ 9,000 and court costs £ 1,000. His company, The Bobcat Pub Co, was fined £ 2,928.98.
“The family does not want retaliation”
The judge heard that members of the Holy Trinity Church congregation in Hinton-in-the-Hedges did not want retaliation against the pub, its owner or its former boss over the tragic effects of the bacteria in the shepherd’s pie.
Continuing, Carl May-Smith said food security officers had tried to help sites in the area with low ratings.
He said: “The pub even had the advantage of being coached by the local authority. Pre-infringement inspections showed that there was no food safety management system in place. “
Defending Billingham and his company, the Bobcat Pub Co, Christopher Hopkins told the judge: “You will see Billingham visited the local residents who were affected shortly after, to apologize for the incident. He also asks me to express his condolences to the Neuman family. in his name. “
The court heard references to Billingham’s good character, including daughter Mrs Neuman who said: “The whole Hinton family don’t want retaliation. Billingham made changes after the incident to make sure it didn’t happen again. “
“The mince was not cooked properly”
On sentencing, Justice Campbell said: “A healthy person has died from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by vomiting. No sentence that I pronounce can reflect the loss caused to the family.
She added: “Croucher was the chef that night. The mince was not cooked properly and was placed in a saucepan with ice water. Croucher had to go, so put the mince in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.
“Having left it, he cooked it again and added lukewarm mashed potatoes. It did not take the temperature when it was served. “
She said the pub has worked hard to maintain community support.