Staffordshire police treating fire at Crooked House pub as arson – The Guardian

Blaze at famous pub nine days after it was sold to new owners sparked outrage and calls for it to be rebuilt
Police have said they are treating the fire at the historic Crooked House pub as arson, although its cause is currently unknown.
Staffordshire police said they believed the fire “may have been started deliberately” after fire investigators said the cause could “not currently be determined”.
“Our investigation into a fire at the Crooked House on Himley Road last Saturday continues as we try to understand the circumstances, which we are now treating as arson,” the force said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“A specialist fire investigator 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.”
The force added: “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.”
The fire at the famous wonky pub, nine days after it was sold to new owners, followed by its demolition, has caused national outrage and calls for it to be rebuilt.
The new owners are ATE Farms Ltd, a company registered to the same address as Himley Environmental Ltd, which runs the 15-hectare (37-acre) quarry and landfill site next to the pub.
Police said officers from the fire service visited the site on Wednesday with a specialist accelerant detection dog to investigate the grounds.
DCS Tom Chisholm, head of specialist crime at Staffordshire police, 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.”
He added that the police and fire service did not have powers to intervene in “the decision around partial demolition of the building […] 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,” he said.
In a letter to the chief constable of Staffordshire police, Marco Longhi, the MP for Dudley North, said the “lack of information being provided to the public has raised animosity amongst the local community” in relation to the handling of the investigation.
“I would like to stress upon the fact that the Crooked House was not just an ordinary building but a historical landmark, which was held dearly by the local community,” he said. “The way everything has been conducted and the little to no information being provided is leading to rising anger amongst the public.”


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