Pub chef sentenced after woman died and 31 taken ill from undercooked shepherd's pie

3 December 2021, 01:18 | Updated: 3 December 2021, 12:46

The chef gave 32 people food poisoning with shepherd's pie.
The chef gave 32 people food poisoning with shepherd's pie. Picture: Alamy/Google Maps

By Emma Soteriou

A pub chef has been sentenced after an elderly woman died and a further 31 people were taken ill from an undercooked shepherd's pie.

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John Croucher, the former head chef of the Crewe Arms in Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Northamptonshire, admitted that he was "rushing" while preparing the dish, leading to it not being fully cooked once it was served up.

He was given a four-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, after admitting a charge of contravening food regulations.

Elizabeth Neuman, 92, had visited the pub in 2018 to celebrate the harvest festival as part of her church group, Reading Crown Court heard.

She was rushed to hospital after eating the shepherd's pie but later died.

Some 31 other members of the group fell ill after the meal, with only three escaping food poisoning because they were all vegetarians.

Speaking in court, Croucher said: "I hate to say it, I really hate to say it, but I think I was rushed. I was rushing.

"A horrible, horrible circumstance happened and it's something you take with you. I now second guess and third guess everything."

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."

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Judge Sarah Campbell said while sentencing: "On 8 October 2018, 35 villagers went to the Crewe Arms for a harvest meal. Thirty-two 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."

Charges were also brought against the landlord, Neil Billingham, and the pubs operator Bobcat Pub Company.