An elderly churchgoer died and 31 members of her congregation fell sick after eating an undercooked shepherd’s pie at their village pub, reports the Metro.
All 35 members of the Holy Trinity Church in Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire, were poisoned after being served the shepherd’s pie at the Crewe Arms in October 2018 – except for three vegetarians who were given the meat-free version.
Reading Crown Court was told Elizabeth Neuman, 92, was ‘healthy and well’ but suffered ‘gastrointestinal haemorrhage induced from vomiting’ caused by bacteria in the pie and died before she could be treated at a hospital in Oxford.
Head chef John Croucher, 40, and landlord Neil Billingham, 54, were spared jail after admitting they broke food regulations by allowing the pie to be served.
Judge Campbell explained:
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.
Prosecutors said food inspectors had previously found ‘no food safety management system in place’ at the pub and gave staff ‘coaching’ as a result.
Croucher however denied receiving any coaching sessions but admitted to ‘rushing’ the meal, adding that he bitterly regretted the mistake.
When I was working for the Crewe Arms I was employed by Mr Billingham to improve standards in the kitchen and in general.
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.
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.
After the incident, the landlord and his chef oversaw improvements that secured a five-star hygiene rating for the pub. What’s more, they are absolutely killing it on Google Reviews:
As for the deceased’s family, Ms Neuman’s daughter told the court:
The whole Hinton family do not want retribution. Billingham made changes after the incident to ensure it would never happen again.
Well that’s unbelievably gracious of them. Obviously the chef made a highly regrettable mistake which he has to live with for the rest of his life, but it still takes a lot of character to forgive someone for essentially poisoning your family member to death (and making 35 others ill). Of course as a head chef, he really should know better than to undercook meat and improperly store it. Kitchen Nightmares, indeed!
Croucher was sentenced to four months’ jail suspended for 12 months for one count of contravening food regulations. Billingham was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in court costs after admitting three counts of breaching food regulations.
To meet the chef who faked his own kidnapping because he wanted to take a day off work, click HERE.