Chef whose shepherd’s pie killed woman and poisoned 31 tells court he “was rushing”


A pub chef has been handed a suspended prison sentence after food that was incorrectly prepared led to the death of a customer and made 31 guests ill.

John Croucher, who at the time was head chef at the Crewe Arms in Northamptonshire, received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, after admitting a charge of contravening food regulations.

He was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 court costs. His company was fined almost £3,000.

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The court heard that Mr Croucher had incorrectly prepared a shepherd’s pie filled with mince for church-goers who were at the pub to enjoy a harvest festival supper.

Elizabeth Neuman, 92, repeatedly vomited after eating the pie and died while other guests became “unpleasantly ill”. Three of the group escaped being ill because they were vegetarians.

According to The Guradian, Mr Croucher, 40, told Reading Crown Court: “I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing.”

He said he had worked in kitchens for 20 years and was now “a better chef” because of the “horrible, horrible circumstance”.

He added: “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.”

The judge, Sarah Campbell, said: “On 8 October 2018, 35 villagers went to the Crewe Arms for a harvest meal. 32 people ate 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.

“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 paper said that members of the Holy Trinity church congregation did not want retribution against the pub, its landlord, Neil Billingham, or Croucher, who no longer works there.

Defending Billingham and his company, the Bobcat Pub Co, Christopher Hopkins told the judge: “You will see that Billingham went to local residents who were affected shortly after, apologising for the incident. He also asks me to express his condolences to the Neuman family on his behalf.”

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Andrew Seymour

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