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World News

92-year-old dies from undercooked shepherd's pie following church outing

by Donna Birrell

A court has heard how a 92-year-old pensioner died after eating a shepherd's pie during a Harvest Festival pub outing with her church in Northamptonshire.

Elizabeth Neuman was with parishioners from Holy Trinity Church at the Crewe Arms in Hinton-in-the- Hedges when she fell ill after eating the pie.

Judge Sarah Campbell at Reading Crown Court said: "On October 8th 2018, 35 villagers went to the Crewe Arms for a harvest meal, with 32 of them opting for the shepherd's pie.

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

Out of the whole congregation, 31 others suffered food poisoning, with only three vegetarians escaping unscathed.

The chef, John Croucher of Ely in Cambridgeshire, had failed to check the mince was cooked properly and admitted "rushing" when preparing the meal. He admitted contravening food regulations.

Sentencing him to a 4 month jail term suspended for 12 months, Judge Campbell said: "Croucher was the chef that night. The mince was not cooked properly and was placed into a pan with iced water. Croucher needed to leave, so put the mince in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.

"Having left it, he cooked it again and added warm mashed potato. He did not take the temperature when it was served."

The owner and landlord of the Crewe Arms, Neil Billingham, admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations. He was fined £9,000, plus £1,000 court costs, and his company The Bobcat Pub Co was fined nearly £3,000.

Judge Campbell said: "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."

40 year old Croucher who'd been a chef for more than 20 years, told the court: "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. I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing. 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.

"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."


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