Firefighters Cleared Of Colleagues' Manslaughter

Two senior fire officers have been cleared of manslaughter charges relating to the deaths of four of their colleagues.

Station manager Timothy Woodward and watch manager Adrian Ashley were charged after a blaze at a warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire, in 2007.

Firefighters John Averis, Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley and Ian Reid died as result of the fire.

Mr Woodward and Mr Ashley were charged with manslaughter by gross negligence at Staffordshire Crown Court.

After a six-week trial, the jury found them not guilty.

Co-accused Paul Simmons was acquitted five weeks in to his trial on the direction of the judge.

Criminal prosecutors alleged that a duty of care was breached and "needless" deaths caused by keeping four men in a burning warehouse when no other lives were at risk.

Warwickshire's Chief Fire Officer Graeme Smith announced his intention to write to the Home Office Ministry of Justice complaining about the trial, which he said "should never have been brought to court in the first place".

He said the trial had wasted £5m on a case that "fell apart" in court and he wanted answers as to how it had been allowed to go ahead.

Detective Superintendent Ken Lawrence of Warwickshire Police defended the criminal investigation, saying it had been justified.

He said: "Where there is a loss of life, nobody is above investigation. We must never ever lose sight of the fact that four people lost their lives."

Mr Smith said: “Today we feel sorrow and remembrance for the four brave firefighters who died at Atherstone-on-Stour in 2007."

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