Skip to main contentAccessibility Statement
New website
This site is new and we are improving it every day.

Suspended sentence for chef after woman dies of food poisoning

Food businesses

02 December 2021

A shepherd's pie

A pub chef has been given a four-month suspended prison sentence after an elderly woman died of food poisoning from eating a meal he served.

The 91-year-old woman was part of a church group celebrating harvest festival at the Crewe Arms pub in Hinton-in-the-Hedges near Brackley on 8 October 2018.

However she was one of more than 30 diners struck by food poisoning after eating a shepherd’s pie prepared by the chef at the time, John Croucher, and sadly died in hospital.

Charges were brought against the chef, the landlord Neil John Bellingham, and the pub’s operator Bobcat Pub Company, after an investigation by South Northamptonshire Council revealed a range of serious food safety failings.

At Reading Crown Court this week (Tuesday 30 November), Croucher was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months. The 40-year-old, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to placing unsafe food on the market, was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community and to pay costs of £4,000.

Bellingham, 54, of Northampton was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs after admitting failing to register a food premise, failing to implement and maintain a food safety management system, and failing to provide staff with supervision, instruction or training.

Bobcat Pub Company was fined £2,928 after admitting failing to register a food premise, failing to implement and maintain a food safety management system, failing to provide staff with supervision, instruction or training, and placing unsafe food on the market.

The court heard the shepherd’s pie was prepared specially for the church group’s function but that the poor cooking, cooling and reheating of various ingredients led to it becoming grossly contaminated with Clostridium perfringens bacteria, giving food poisoning to all 32 people who ate it.

The dish had been rushed and basic food safety practices and procedures had not been followed, creating the perfect environment for the bacteria to rapidly grow.

The day after the event, the Council’s Health Protection and Compliance team received a call from the event organiser to report a significant number of the group had been taken ill with severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea. It was later confirmed that one of the diners had been taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where she sadly died.

Environmental Health officers from the council worked alongside colleagues from Public Health England to conduct a full investigation, which uncovered numerous food hygiene offences and led to the prosecution.

The pub earned the highest five star food safety rating during its most recent inspection in December 2019, and has recently changed ownership.

This is an incredibly sad and tragic case which demonstrates the serious consequences of failing to follow food safety regulations, and I commend the officers whose detailed investigation helped to bring these individuals to justice in the interests of public safety. 
Our deepest condolences also go to the friends and family of the lady who sadly died.
Cllr David Smith, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Engagement, and Regulatory Services on WNC

People can find the food safety scores of places they intend to visit on the Food Standards Agency website or by looking out for the distinctive green and black sticker that food businesses are encouraged to display.