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One Dies, 31 Fall Ill From Food Poisoning at Church Event; Chef Charged

John Croucher

Tragedy struck a 2018 harvest supper for Holy Trinity Church in Northamptonshire, England when an improperly cooked shepherd’s pie caused a mass food poisoning event, resulting in the death of 92 year-old Elizabeth Neuman. 31 others fell ill. John Croucher, the chef who prepared the food, has now been charged with three counts of contravening food regulations. 

In 2018, Croucher was working as a chef at Crew Arms pub in the Northamptonshire village of Hinton-in-the-Hedges when the pub hosted the Holy Trinity church group of 35 people for a meal. Croucher admitted that he “was rushed,” which ultimately led to his improper cooking of the ground meat in the shepherd’s pie, a traditional British dish. According to the Guardian, the pub only had a one out of five star health rating at the time. 

The 92 year-old Neuman died from gastrointestinal hemorrhage after repeatedly vomiting from food poisoning. 31 others reported that they became “unpleasantly ill.” The only people in attendance who did not fall ill were the three vegetarians who did not consume any of the shepherd’s pie. 

“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,” Croucher said during a court proceeding. 

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Rendering the sentence of four months of jail time, Judge Sarah Campbell said, “No sentence I pass can reflect the loss caused to the family.” Croucher’s sentence is suspended for twelve months, meaning that if he does not commit any offenses during that time, he will not spend any time behind bars. He no longer works at Crew Arms pub. 

The congregants of the Holy Trinity church conveyed to the court that they did not wish to seek retribution against Croucher, the pub, or its landlord, Neil Billingham. 

However, because of the pub’s history with poor health ratings, Billingham was also charged with three counts of contravening food regulations. He has been fined nearly $12,000 and ordered to pay more than $1,300 in court fees, according to New York Post. According to Judge Campbell, this was “not a one-off mistake.”

Since the tragedy in 2018, Crew Arms pub has improved its food safety adherence and now has a five star rating for hygiene.

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Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) is the Content Manager for ChurchLeaders.com. He is also a blogger and podcaster who is passionate about helping people tackle ancient truths in everyday settings. He lives in Southern California with his wife Tamara and their two sons.