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By Steve Hayes 30/05 Updated: 30/05 15:41
THE DETECTIVE who led a £5 million investigation in the Atherstone warehouse blaze has insisted it was a success despite the acquittal of three fire managers charged with manslaughter.
Det Supt Ken Lawrence, of Warwickshire Police, said he was 'disappointed' with the not guilty verdicts reached on Wednesday (May 30) in the manslaughter trial of Warwickshire fire service managers Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward.
Another watch manager Paul Simmons had earlier been cleared of manslaughter in relation to the 2007 blaze on the direction of the judge, at Stafford Crown Court.
But Mr Lawrence insisted the deaths of firefighters Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid and John Averis were 'unnecessary' and there were some 'serious lessons' the fire service needed to learn from the blaze.
"Whatever the result of the trial, the investigation has been successful and has had a number of positive outcomes for the families of the four men who died and fire fighters in Warwickshire and across the country," Mr Lawrence said.
"I promised that we would do everything we could to determine how the four men died, and to find some answers for their families and loved ones. I believe that we have done that.
"Investigating the deaths in the way, and to the extent, that we did was the right thing to do and has been justified by the fact that three men were charged and brought to trial.
"As a police force it is our job to investigate crime, and there is no more serious crime than causing the death of another person.
"We believe that the deaths of Ashley, Darren, Ian and John were unnecessary. We do not want any more lives lost through the same kind of human misjudgement and organisational practices which have been uncovered.
"Those practices will, of course, be addressed in the basis of plea hearing for Warwickshire County Council, which has pleaded guilty to a number of health and safety offences.
"Clearly things did not go as they should on the night, and there are some serious lessons to be learned by the fire service and it is important that they take this on board.
"The four fire fighters died not because of the fire but because they were sent in to fight the fire – a fire in an empty building where no lives other than their own were at risk – with insufficient information and resources.
"That is why prosecutions were brought."
Warwickshire Police invested nearly £4.6m in the investigation into the blaze of which £3.45m was covered by a Home Office Special Grant.
Some 800 interviews were conducted during the course of the investigation in nine different languages.
Experts were also called in to help understand the behaviour of fire and the operational management of fire crews.
The fire was also painstakingly reconstructed as part of the investigation.
Mr Lawrence paid tribute to the families of the firefighters who died and said he hoped they could move on with their lives.
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