West Midlands Mayor Andy Street shared his reaction after Staffordshire Police said the fire at the Crooked House pub on Himley Road last Saturday (August 5) is being treated as arson.
Police announced the arson link yesterday evening (Wednesday, August 9) explaining that they are conducting a joint investigation with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. The announcement came after the pub was completely demolished despite South Staffordshire Council had only given permission for the first floor of the building to be taken down for safety reasons.
Staffordshire Police said they are carrying out “a robust investigation” and have “spoken to, and continue to engage, with the owners.” Police also advised the community against speculating as about the cause of the fire advising that this could possibly hinder their investigation.
The fire at The Crooked House happened days after brewers Marston’s sold it to ATE Farms Ltd. The company is controlled by Carly Taylor, 34, according to Government records. She is reportedly married to Adam, 44 - who is a shareholder of Himley Environmental Ltd, a company that operates a landfill next to the pub, according to the Daily Mail.
The fire, and later the unsanctioned demolition on August 7, has shocked and upset many people across the West Midlands given the cultural importance and heritage of the building. It was built in 1765 as a farmhouse and later converted into a pub after it began to sink due to mining in the area.
Mayor Street said last night (August 9) on Twitter: “We all thought the Crooked House fire would be arson, but it still makes your blood boil to see it treated as such. We must let Police & Fire do their job as they step up their investigation to find the culprit/s. I’m meeting @south_staffs tomorrow to talk next steps for the site.”
Staffordshire Police full statement on Crooked House arson investigation
Staffordshire Police said: “Our investigation into a fire at the Crooked House on Himley Road last Saturday (5 August) continues as we try to understand the circumstances, which we are now treating as arson. This fire has shocked and upset so many given the, albeit not listed, cultural importance and heritage of the building. This is not lost on us and a robust investigation using all available information and forensic opportunities is being carried out.
“We have spoken to, and continue to engage, with the owners. However, speculation is extremely unhelpful and could hinder our investigation. We’re conducting a joint investigation with colleagues at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and are liaising closely with their fire investigators who have confirmed that the cause of the fire cannot currently be determined. However, police are following up on a number of lines of enquiry.
“We thought it may be helpful to set out the role of police and fire in such investigations as there has been much speculation and some public frustration since our investigation started. Firefighters initially responded to try and extinguish the flames, supported by colleagues from West Midlands Fire Service, and police officers closed the road and managed the scene.
“A specialist fire investigator then examined the scene to try and determine the cause of the fire. In this case, we believe the fire may have been started deliberately and police are now leading the investigation. Closely supported by colleagues from fire, who have today revisited with a specialist accelerant detection dog to investigate the grounds.
“We are also working closing with the local authority who have different powers and responsibilities to us, and like us at police and fire, have received correspondence from elected members, which we have responded to.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Chisholm, Head of Specialist Crime, said: “We understand the significance of this much-loved building and the upset and anger felt by many so want to reassure you we’re doing all we can to understand more about what happened, and who was responsible.
“There is lots of misinformation circulating within communities and online and this is unhelpful. We’re trying to provide accurate and timely updates, but as I am sure you can appreciate, there is a lot of work and liaison with a number of partners which needs to be completed and this takes time.
“There are also certain things that police and fire do not have the powers to deal with, the decision around partial demolition of the building for example, when the scene was handed back to the owner. We are working hard with our fire colleagues to understand the cause of the fire and are in contact with the landowner, we will keep you updated with any further significant developments.”
How do I contact Staffordshire Police if I have information about The Crooked House fire?
If you have any information about the fire at the Crooked House and want to help with investigation, you can get in touch via the Live Chat on Staffordshire Police website or call 101, quoting incident 761 of 5 August. To report anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.