Coventry & Warwickshire

Timeline: Warwickshire firefighter deaths

Key dates in the events following a fire at a vegetable warehouse at Atherstone-on-Stour in which four Warwickshire firefighters died.

2 November 2007

A large fire starts at the plant on the Atherstone Industrial Estate, on the site of a disused airfield, just after 18:00 GMT.

Image caption Up to 100 firefighters worked to put out the blaze

Up to 100 firefighters, from Warwickshire, Hereford and Worcester and the West Midlands, and five ambulance crews are sent to the blaze at the site owned by Wealmoor Atherstone Ltd, which employed 300 workers.

Police confirm that three Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service crew members were inside the building when the roof collapsed.

Firefighters work through the night to bring the fire under control.

3 November

Police confirm in the early hours that one firefighter has died in hospital and three are still missing.

At 14:30 GMT, firefighters are still trying to extinguish the blaze.

Concern is heightened for the three missing firefighters.

4 November

Image caption The warehouse fire at Atherstone-on-Stour happened in November 2007

An inch-by-inch search of the interior of the collapsed building continues throughout the night under the supervision of structural engineers.

Police say the fire is being treated as unexplained.

Nine specialist teams from West Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Hereford and Worcester, Hampshire and London work on the site in the search and rescue operation.

6 November

Police confirm one of the missing firefighters has been found and two are still missing.

About 100 officers work on the investigation, including 28 from forces in Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, West Mercia, West Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Greater Manchester.

16 November

The identities of the four firefighters are confirmed as John Averis, aged 27, from Tredington; Darren Yates Badley, aged 24, and Ashley Stephens, aged 20, both from Alcester, and Ian Reid, 44, from Stratford, who had died in hospital.

20 November

An inquest into the deaths of the four men is opened and adjourned at Stratford Town Hall.

28 November

The police say the warehouse site is still unstable and an air-raid style warning system has also been installed to warn of any sudden change in the building.

They confirm they will need to interview about 400 staff from the warehouse.

16 January 2008

Image caption Three of the firemen died in the vegetable packing plant warehouse fire while the fourth died in hospital

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) finds Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Authority did not have sufficient arrangements in place to provide its firefighters with the information they should have had to help them deal with the fire.

An Improvement Notice is issued to the authority.

Forensic experts are allowed to re-enter the building.

Police say 65 police officers are still working on the investigation and 1,118 statements have been taken.

18 April

Police finish searching the remains of the warehouse.

7 May 2009

Four people are arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

Warwickshire Police say three men, two aged 25 and one aged 27, have been detained at addresses in Handsworth, Birmingham and Smethwick, West Midlands.

A 26-year-old woman is arrested in Evesham, Worcestershire.

The next day they are released on bail until July.

24 February 2010

Three men, including a 43-year-old from Nuneaton, a 49-year-old from Leamington Spa and a 48-year-old from the Warwick area are arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter.

24 March

Three more men, aged 42, 52 and 54 and all from south Warwickshire, are arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter. They are released on bail the following day.

7 April

Another two men, aged 49 and 59 and from south Warwickshire, are arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. They are later released on bail.

5 May

Two more men, aged 49 and 50 and both from Warwickshire, are arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter. They are also later released on bail.

26 May

A further two men from Warwickshire, aged 47 and 53, are arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter.

The 53-year-old man is released on bail and the 47-year-old returns to Warwickshire Police station the following day for further questioning.

22 October

Image caption After the fire Warwickshire County Council faced a charge of failing to ensure health and safety

Det Supt Ken Lawrence describes the investigation, costing £4.5m, as "the largest and most complex investigation ever undertaken by Warwickshire Police".

He said: "I am conscious that as we approach the third anniversary of the fire people are asking why it is taking so long."

10 February 2011

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) extends the bail of the 12 men arrested in 2010.

28 February

The CPS confirms three Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service managers, Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward, all incident commanders at the time of the fire, will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

It says Warwickshire County Council will also face a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety at work of its employees.

25 November

Station manager Timothy Woodward, 50, and watch managers Paul Simmons, 50, and Adrian Ashley, 45, all from Warwickshire, appear at Warwick Crown Court in Leamington Spa.

20 January 2012

Warwickshire County Council pleads guilty to a health and safety charge at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

In a statement from the council, lawyer Chris Green says the plea was entered on a "limited basis" and that the council did not "accept many of the allegations made by the prosecution".

19 April

A trial expected to last 10 weeks begins at Stafford Crown Court.

Mr Woodward, 51, Mr Simmons, 50, and Mr Ashley, 45, plead not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.

10 May

The court hears three of the four firefighters - Mr Averis, Mr Stephens and Mr Yates-Badley - died of probable heat exhaustion and suffocation.

Stafford Crown Court also hears Mr Reid is likely to have died from smoke inhalation and suffocation.

An investigation carried out by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service indicates the fire was started deliberately, the court hears.

21 May

Mr Simmons is acquitted and found not guilty five weeks into his trial, on the judge's directions.

In a statement, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack says Mr Simmons's family were "greatly relieved".

The case continues against Mr Ashley and Mr Woodward who both deny manslaughter by gross negligence.

The prosecution alleges Mr Stephens, 20, Mr Yates-Badley, 24, Mr Averis, 27, and Mr Reid lost their lives needlessly after being sent into an obviously dangerous situation for no good reason.

30 May

Mr Woodward and Mr Ashley are found not guilty of manslaughter.

Warwickshire's chief fire officer condemns the decision to press criminal charges against them.

7 December

Warwickshire County Council is fined £30,000 after a week-long hearing at Stafford Crown Court.

The authority had admitted it should be sentenced for its failings for the "tragic events" of 2007.

16 August

A coroner has ruled the inquests into the deaths of all four men who died will not be reopened, in spite of written requests from the families.

HM Senior Coroner for Warwickshire Sean McGovern said it was "not clear" what further investigation would bring.

He said: "Any inquest would in effect be a re-litigation of the criminal charges."

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