Chef’s dodgy shepherd’s pie kills parishioner, 92, as 31 others fall ill

A 92-year-old parishioner has died following a dodgy harvest supper, with 31 others falling seriously ill.

Elizabeth Neuman was rushed to hospital after eating a contaminated shepherd's pie at the Crewe Arms pub in Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire, and suffered an internal haemorrhage.

Just three of the 35 villagers at the meal were fine, only because they ordered vegetarian options.

John Croucher, the 40-year-old former head chef, was handed a four-month suspended jail sentence at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard how members of the Holy Trinity Church gathered for the meal on October 8, 2018, and how the meat in the shepherd's pie was "not cooked properly" the night before.

Croucher was supposedly "rushed" and placed the meat in cling film in the fridge.

The following day it was cooked again with mashed potato but the temperature of the meat wasn't checked.

Croucher admitted to contravening food regulations and said: "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."

Neil Billingham, the 54-year-old owner and landlord, admitted to three charges of contravening food regulations.

He was personally fined £9,000, plus £1,000 court costs, and his company The Bobcat Pub Co was fined nearly £3000.

Judge Sarah 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 Mr Billingham worked hard to maintain the support of the community, including Mrs Neuman’s daughter."

The judge also refused to accept claims that it was a "one-off mistake".

Although it has since gained the maximum five star food hygiene rating, at the time of the tragedy the Crewe Arms had just one star.

Prosecutor Carl May-Smith pointed out how food safety officers had even been trying to help venues in the area with low 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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